Business

Classified No More: Google Base Goes Live

Google Base, the search engine’s bid to help organize a broad range of data, is now live and has begun accepting content for inclusion in the searchable, Google-hosted database.

When users submit data, Google will suggest attributes or tags meant to structure to the information, making it easier for other users to find it within Google Base. Eventually, information from Google Base will be returned as part of the search results from other Google specialty searches, such as Froogle or Google Local.

Making Strides

In a post on the official Google blog — which has become Google’s preferred vehicle for announcing many new ventures — Product Manager Bindu Reddy said the beta version of Google Base is “another small step toward our goal, creating an online database of easily searchable, structured information.”

Reddy said numerous groups have already been testing Google Base, using it to organize and make searchable a host of information, from college search data and environmental statistics meant to spark grassroots action to information about locally available products and art works.

Word of Google Base was first revealed more than two weeks ago, when the site first appeared. That sparked widespread speculation about whether Google was taking aim at the classified advertising market for apartments, job listings and other categories.

Analysts know that it will be some time before any such effort truly offers competition to the likes of Craigslist or job boards such as Monster.com. Analysts also see Google Base as part of a bigger plan to categorize and index a variety of data.

All About the Data

Search Engine Watch Editor Danny Sullivan said the site is likely to be bombarded with spam, which is one reason that Google is requiring users to be registered before they submit data. Google is willing to wade through that potential glut of ill-fitting information in order to get legitimate data, however.

“Google Base is a way for Google to let anyone upload information to Google about anything. That’s the master plan,” he said. “Exactly how that master plan will unfold isn’t clear. Maybe there won’t be any particular date types that are uploaded. Maybe it really will turn into a great place for those with classified listings that will lead to a dedicated spin-off service. The overall goal seems to be put this tool out there and see what people make of it.”

Search expert and Google book author John Battelle called Base a “major undertaking” but one for which public demand is still unclear.

Among the questions are whether users will trust Google with their data. ” Google is saying this is simply a new way to augment their search results. Google’s right. And that alone makes it one very big deal,” Battelle said.

Coming Attractions

Kelsey Group managing director Greg Sterling said the long-term success and impact of Base will depend largely on how well Google can improve the user experience of uploading information, a process that can now be done manually or through RSS for large amounts of content. Convincing users to turn over information that others will find useful is also key.

“Right now, it’s not going to trump Craigslist or eBay or Shopping.com or vertical sites,” Sterling said. “The consumer experience and the content offered will be critical. If the content isn’t there, then consumers won’t use it. I continue to believe that a structured user experience that creates and fulfills expectations regarding what content is present and how to access it is crucial to the user side of the equation here.”

Most analysts agree that it will be some time before it’s known how Google Base affects the overall competitive landscape. For now, it is considered largely a content acquisition move, which could eventually allow Google to roll out additional search features.

Sullivan noted that the service lacks the community of eBay, the user-friendly advanced search features of job sites such as Monster.com

“Is this the eBay-killer, Monster-killer, Craigslist-killer that some expect?” asked Sullivan. “Maybe over time, but certainly not now.”

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