OpenBusiness has interviewed Robert Cook, one of the co-founders of Freebase, a startup which aims to become the “Wikipedia for data”. Revenues will come through charging thrid party firms to access the API and leverage its data. Uses this coudld be put to include working out how many dentists are in one mile vicinity, if they are next to tube stop and are specialists in teeth whitening. Web 2.0 guru Tim O’Reilly already likes the idea.

Key quotes:

“As a database, it lets people ask complex and extemporaneous questions like… “Find me all of the Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley who share a board membership and went to college together.â€? Up until a few years ago it was almost impossible to build a database like this. After several years of work, we’re now past the main technical hurdles to making such as system function at a worldwide scale.”

“We’re getting data from many places. Currently we have a team combining data about geography, government, school, business, restaurants, and products, as well as Wikipedia itself, which has data in a semi-structured form.”

“Freebase uses the very open “Creative Commons Attribution Licenseâ€? that allows anybody to use the data for any purpose, as long as they give attribution to the contributor. This license is more radically open than the more common “Creative Commons Noncommercial Licenseâ€? which is used by licensors wishing to provide their data only to academic researchers or hobbyists.”