OK Google, What Is Your Ontology? Or: Exploring Freebase Classification to Understand Google's Knowledge Graph
This paper reconstructs the Freebase data dumps to understand the underlying ontology behind Google's semantic search feature. The Freebase knowledge base was a major Semantic Web and linked data technology that was acquired by Google in 2010 to support the Google Knowledge Graph, the backend for Google search results that include structured answers to queries instead of a series of links to external resources. After its shutdown in 2016, Freebase is contained in a data dump of 1.9 billion Resource Description Format (RDF) triples. A recomposition of the Freebase ontology will be analyzed in relation to concepts and insights from the literature on classification by Bowker and Star. This paper will explore how the Freebase ontology is shaped by many of the forces that also shape classification systems through a deep dive into the ontology and a small correlational study. These findings will provide a glimpse into the proprietary blackbox Knowledge Graph and what is meant by Google's mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful".