In general, a knowledge base is a centralized repository for information: a public library, a database of related information about a particular subject, and whatis.com could all be considered to be examples of knowledge bases. In relation to tnformation technology (IT), a knowledge base is a machine-readable resource for the dissemination of information, generally online or with the capacity to be put online. An integral component of knowledge management systems, a knowledge base is used to optimize information collection, organization, and retrieval for an organization, or for the general public.
A well-organized knowledge base can save an enterprise money by decreasing the amount of employee time spent trying to find information about - among myriad possibilities - tax laws or company policies and procedures. As a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a knowledge base can give customers easy access to information that would otherwise require contact with an organization's staff; as a rule, this capacity should make the interaction simpler for both the customer and the organization. A number of software applications are available that allow users to create their own knowledge bases, either separately (these are usually called knowledge management software) or as part of another application, such as a CRM package.
In general, a knowledge base is not a static collection of information, but a dynamic resource that may itself have the capacity to learn, as part of an artificial intelligence (AI) expert system, for example. According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), in the future the Internet may become a vast and complex global knowledge base known as the Semantic Web.