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November 16, 2005

Google Base goes live - it's more than just about classifieds

By Charlene Li

After much speculation, Google Base is finally live. In my briefing with them last week, Google said that early reports that Google Base was targeting classifieds were inaccurate – instead, they see it as a way to acquire more information that its crawlers can’t pick up. (It’s pretty much what I wrote about two weeks ago). Here’s how they explained Google Base, a sumary of my experience, and a few thoughts on what this means at the end.

Google sees Base as a natural step in their quest to “organize the world’s information. Most of Google’s index is collected through the Googlebot crawlers that follow links around the Web. But if that information isn’t in a Web page with static links, it’s really hard for the crawlers to index it. Google has other ways to collect information, for example, Google Print and Google Catalog where Google scans offline publications for online searching. Google Video is a similar solution for video content owners while retailers can upload product feeds into Froogle. And Sitemaps makes it easy for Webmasters to upload an entire site to Google – especially helpful for dynamic sites built on databases. Oh, and don’t forget about Blogger and Google Groups for user-generated content. So Google sees Base is an extension of this information gathering effort. Users are essentially creating their own databases – they can use existing templates or their own.

I had a go at it – I put in my personal profile which I found a bit confusing at first but then pretty quickly figured out. It took about 10 minutes for the item to clear through their “vetting” process. There are templates that you can use (and also append), or you can start from scratch.

To access the information, users conduct a search on Base. Google contends that they may elect to include information from Base in general search results – while they didn’t show how this would work, I would imagine that they would do this in much the same way they integrate search results from Print, Froogle, or Local today – as a module that appears above the regular Web search results. And here’s the most interesting part – I asked Google how they planned to integrate Base content to Web-crawled content, and in particular, how they would determine relevance. No answers at this point, but it certainly bears watching. My hunch is that if/when Yahoo! decides to pursue something similar, that they will have an advantage in doing this, as Yahoo! has long been integrating paid inclusion and Yahoo! Directory items with their Web crawled results.

I also asked Google how it was going in their discussions with content owners (several newspapers have confided to me that they had been approached by Google to upload their classifieds database, but that they were skeptical and wary). Google said that there has been some strong interest as these database owners realized that they would benefit from Google sending them traffic. In a quick look at the classifieds, I found listings from The New York Times, CareerBuilder, and Dealer Specialties’ GetAuto site. If this is going to a newspaper classifieds killer, these newspapers and sites are, at least for now, willing to support Google’s service in order to drive more (free) traffic to themselves.

But as comments to my original blog post on Google Base point out, just having the data isn’t enough – you’ve got to be able to DO something with the data and no, just being able to search the information isn’t nearly enough. And this is where I think Google is on to something very big. At its core, Google Base is just one very big database of highly structured information. I can’t believe Google will just let it sit there, and instead, will develop APIs on which developers can build applications, in much the same way it allows them to create mash-ups around Google Maps. So rather than have to figure out, build, and maintain lots of different applications, Google will allow developers to access the information, on the condition that the applications be “Base enabled”.

Does this sound familiar? Microsoft’s Windows Live and Office Live are built on a similar premise (albeit sans database -- at least for now) where Microsoft supplies the backend infrastructure and hosting, some tools and data, and a place where developers can market their applications to users.

One last thought on Google Base – right now, anything I post to Base is public, but I may want to keep something private, or accessible to a specific social network. At some point, Google is going to have to allow users to set up these permissions, which adds a layer of complexity to searching. If I’m doing a search for a particular recipe, and I have permission to look at my extended family members’ Base content, Google would have to parse out that information in real time. Not an easy feat, at least on the surface.

So I’m curious to hear from you how you would/wouldn’t use base -- please add your comment below or email me. I think at the core, it’s not only a matter of technology and feature/function set, but also a matter of how much do I trust Google to do the right thing with my data. My hunch is that we will.

Update: Here are links to relevant Google Base posts:

- Google Blog -- includes quotes from companies using Base
- Google's FAQ on Base - includes screenshots. Check out the last FAQ -- because Base creates a unique page for your item, you can buy AdWords that point to it. Hmmm, the profit motive begins to show its hand. Your data now resides on a page instead of in a database, so you can advertise it.
- Search Engine Watch - Danny has a nice review of the ins and outs of the service

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Google Base goes live - it's more than just about classifieds:

» Google Base Goes Live: Reactions (GOOG, EBAY, MNST) from The Internet Stock Blog
The much anticipated Google Base went live today and began accepting user-submitted content. Speculation that Base might threaten Ebay, Craigslist, or Monster right out of the shute was quickly laid to rest, as no e-commerce or for-pay function is cur... [Read More]

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» Google Base as a platform from SiliconBeat
Our story today about Google Base was edited down for space reasons, and some of what got cut were Charlene Li's thoughts on Google Base as an open platform. Li sees the possibility of Google developing Base APIs, allowing developers to build applicati... [Read More]

» Google Base as a platform from SiliconBeat
Our story today about Google Base was edited down for space reasons, and some of what got cut were Charlene Li's thoughts on Google Base as an open platform. Li sees the possibility of Google developing Base APIs, allowing developers to build applicati... [Read More]

» Google Base as a platform from SiliconBeat
Our story today about Google Base was edited down for space reasons, and some of what got cut were Charlene Li's thoughts on Google Base as an open platform. Li sees the possibility of Google developing Base APIs, allowing developers to build applicati... [Read More]

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Comments

Sebastien Billard

I was desappointed to see that an item has a life span of only 31 days. I thought Google Base could be a great repository for information, but it won't be. I have yet to find an useful use for it, apart classifieds...

daley

Actually, some items have no expiration. It seems like "recipes", "articles", "article reference" has no time limit(I'm not certain, but it appears so). Time limit is only on products, personals, cars, events, schedules and stuff like that. I guess that makes sense since it would not be good for alot of old time sensitive info to fill the database, and allow for information centric items to be permanent.

ab

Browse Vs Search

Classifieds (and Blogs) are more naturally
suited to a browse-style user interface
rather than a search-style user interface.
eg look at Craigslist or any newspaper.
They have browse-style user interface

Hence, Google Base in its current form is
going against the grain (if you have a search
hammer everything looks like a search nail)


Andrew

For Google base to be an application platform, it still lack some application services, but Google base is a good start to become a global database. Currently it limits to certain types of data, although it allows us to extend them. The other things lacking are that you could not express relationship between data types. Of course, access control plus many other database stuff are lacking too.

Even with current form of Goolge base, we could do lots of things with it. Previously if you generate content and you wait for Google to index your content. Now you could proactively push your content to Google. Does that means you don't need to front door web site anymore? Then other search engines have nothing to index. What about we're going to see Yahoo base, MS base, etc. Who is going to help me put my content to all these bases? -:)

Dharmik

They are not alone. My company has everything they have annoucned plus more coming. We are in talks with the other portals in United States and will have an annoucement early next week. Of course I veiw all of this as the coming man vs machin era. Im ready to take Goolge on. There must always be an alternative for infomramtion creation and distribution.


andy

Yeah, that sounds good.
Btw, you can try the best websearch on the net:

http://search.seavenue.net

Willliam Dyson


My name is William Dyson and I m an African American London based technologist. I have stared a company that is the counter to GoogleBase. We are in beta and we have already been aggressively approached by two of the large US portals for funding and partnerships. We are about to close on a 3 million pound deal in china. We are working with Rotschilds to find a large amount of private investment that will help us to grow and maybe to go public.

I think that future of the internet is at stake. Goolge and my company both know that we are moving towards a semantic web that will bring about the first real era of AI. I believe that all information entered into a centralized system that creates a layer content definition should have at its core the idea that the content belongs to the person that entered it and that this person should have the ability to sell, distribute, or share this content, anywhere on the internet. I also believe that if an ad on a content creators page leads to revenue that part of this revenue belongs to the owner of the page.

I also believe that this type of system will generate large amounts of revenue and that some of this revenue should go to help those in need.

I grew up poor in Norflok, Virgina and I have a point to prove. We cannot continue to believe that all the great technology ideas come from certain regions of the country. There are young people from poor backgrounds that have many bright ideas. The capital that would give them the ability to quickly learn from failure does not flow to them.


William Dyson

Dave Carpe

you know, base has a lot of potential if there is some clean way to unify tagging - tagging appears to be hot, but it's about as old as time (back when animals starting pissing to mark territory i suppose)...without a dewey decimal approach (some semblance of a standard), i fear that we're headed toward another world full of freakishly diverse XML standards (you know, that old issue, french and english have the same alphabet but i still can't tell if the people at the airport are teasing me)...

personally, i'm gonna start putting up a lot of columns and older training material for view and use...not sure what will happen when it gets stuffed with crap and identical tags for the same crap...

maybe a user feedback and ratings layer? something like thirdvoice but within the system, but not like ebay ratings, just commentary (like the purple rabbit for firefox extension or whatever it is)

DaveMc500Hats

i think you're right charlene, it depends a lot on what kind of app layer / api / web services strategy Google pursues for GoogleBase. it could be a very significant offering if & when they enhance it further with something like that (or also, if they allow their data to be indexed by others), however to date we haven't really heard anything.

and i do think there will be a substantial amount of competition between Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to be the 'hosting DB' of choice for various kinds of data... but the decision will likely be based on how open these companies are about what they're offering, and how much opportunity they create for people to take advantage of.

In the 90's, Microsoft was king of creating a partner strategy on the windows desktop & NT Backoffice platforms that resulted in a rich environment for downstream players to develop for ("developers, developers, developers, developers!" wasn't just a good Ballmer soundbite). Similarly, Yahoo has been doing a good job evangelizing their new platforms & turning existing features they have into API-enabled web services.

Strangely, except for limited cases with respect to Gmail and GoogleMaps, Google hasn't really been very vocal about their partner strategy & offerings. When they rolled out GoogleMaps earlier this year, i asked one of the product managers at the SES show in NYC in February what their developer / partner plans were, and she responded that they didn't really have any plans to enable it for the developer community as yet. i was flabbergasted -- in hindsight, this was either an abject untruth or else ignorance that was later pushed aside by rampant developer adoption. in either case, it would indicate a very nascent and immature partner/developer strategy. Google has been incredibly active in rolling out new features, but rather slow to elucidate how others can work with them -- so slow in fact, that they risk frightening off potential partners with their trademark secrecy. i'd like to think this isn't the case, but the silence is deafening right now. if this is just them learning the ropes it's one thing, but if it's a pattern of ongoing behavior (great products, crappy channel / partner info & evangelism), then i'd say that's a clear achilles heel for Microsoft and Yahoo to attack.

for more thoughts on this, see my post on our blog here:
Can There Be Only One?
http://blog.simplyhired.com/archives/2005/10/google_there_ca_1.php

- dave mcclure
www.SimplyHired.com

julian.bond

My experience so far is that Google Base is still very much beta. My use case is a site with lots of classifieds that I'd like to upload. Even though they can take RSS it seems that this is only designed for one off uploads. I want to do it every 24 hours with whatever's new. It's puzzling why they've created the API and then hobbled it.

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