Decisions.  They are made every day.  Some are made on the fly such as when a low fuel alert prompts me to stop at the nearest gas station.  Some are more considered, involving detailed research and analysis, perhaps on the Internet or consulting with friends or experts.  And others are made for us, by our friends and family, or our government.  An important question is: are we all, given the data available to us today, making good, well-informed decisions?  One thing is nearly certain, if your data isn’t accurate and accessible, a good decision isn’t likely to follow.

Today, we are announcing the beta launch of Factual, a platform where anyone can share and mash open data on any subject.  Factual provides smart tools to help the community build and maintain a trusted source of structured data so everyone can make better decisions.  Users can contribute data and get deeper data on a particular subject, publishers can add free content to their site with embeddable tables to enhance the end user experience, and developers can customize tables and create new applications using the Factual API.

We think a good route to low cost and high quality data is the open data model.  By making data open to access (read) so that developers can create valuable new applications without complex data licensing restrictions, and by making the data open for opinion, comment, and debate (write) – we believe a groundswell of support for certain data verticals could emerge.

There have been a number of great open structured data projects which have impacted the web positively: ODP, MusicBrainz and OpenStreetMap are just a few examples.  But we believe it’s just the beginning.  Factual intends to build one of the largest repositories of open data by providing an open, collaborative environment where anyone can easily view, contribute, improve and share data.  Why not have an open registry of endocrinologists and their areas of specialization?  Or, an open database of California restaurants along with attributes useful for people with specific health conditions such as diabetes or peanut allergies?  And, perhaps, a list of video games with links to cheat codes.

Factual wants to bring true accountability to data.  Accountability means anyone can easily contribute their opinion, substantiate the data or disagree with the data.  Accountability means full transparency and history in regards to how this data was originated (e.g. citations or explanations).

Factual’s platform also provides advanced tools for starting a new open data project to collect and improve data.  Whether you want to curate data, source it from a wider community of experts or anonymous users, or use advanced data improvement tools which can mine web data, we can help.

We’ve been testing with several partners (see home page for list) who understand that Factual’s open data can help websites offer better data and tools for end users.  For example, we’ve partnered with Demand Media, on cancer physician data on their site. This is just the beginning of a strategic relationship and collaboration on future projects together.

We’re also very excited to announce that Esther Dyson, an industry luminary, will be a member of our advisory board and provide valuable insight to guide the evolution of Factual.  In Esther’s words, “This is really exciting precisely because it is not yet another poke at search. It’s the creation of structure -  finding and deriving order out of chaos.”

We hope you’ll become an active member of the Factual community today and help us bring full accountability, accuracy and openness to data so that everyone can make smart decisions in their everyday life.

Gil Elbaz