Why Google Base?

Google Base has broken new ground for Google by being the first service they’ve introduced which I can’t understand the purpose of. Google is a search engine. GMail is a mail client. Froogle is a search engine designed for shopping. Google Groups is Usenet and mailing lists. Google Suggest refines searches, Google Scholar searches academic publications, Google News aggregates and searches news publications.

Google Base, uh, well, I don’t know what it does. I know what it is — it’s a website where you can submit URLs, or content that isn’t yet on the web, to Google. In the latter case it becomes available on the Web. When you search Google Base you get results that are on other sites (in this case, mostly car ads, although refining the search gets you a lot of job ads). But the main page doesn’t talk about being a database of ads. Some people have talked about Google Base being them trying to compete with craigslist, but it doesn’t resemble craigslist in the slightest, and they’re featuring recipes, non-profits, and course descriptions on the main Google Base page.

There’s a FAQ, but it’s as unclear as everything else to do with it. Here’s the answer to “What is Google Base?”:

Google Base is a place where you can easily submit all types of online and offline content that we’ll host and make searchable online. You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base. In fact, based on the relevance of your items, they may also be included in the main Google search index and other Google products like Froogle, Google Base and Google Local.

Ok, so we know what it does — not much, really — but there’s no “why”. For comparison, here’s the answer to “What is Google Talk” from its FAQ:

Google Talk is a simple and free way to talk with and send instant messages to your friends. Like Gmail, Google Talk uses Google’s innovative technologies to help people communicate more effectively and efficiently. Think of it as Google’s approach to communications.

Now, the Google Base FAQ does say, later on,

Google Base enables you to add attributes that better describe your content so that users can easily find it.

Is this just Google trying to get on the tags bandwagon? Or are they trying to get people with content on the Web to classify their content? The more I think about it, the more I suspect that might be it — getting users to go to Google to classify their content means that Google can take advantage of the classification data without any other search engines doing so, which they wouldn’t be able to do, without, say, Meta tags.

If that’s all it is, though, why its own “application” in the Google world? It’s unusual for Google to expose an application to the world, even in beta, without a good elevator pitch. So what’s Google Base’s elevator pitch?

17 responses to “Why Google Base?”

  1. And your average web app will never need to set up mysql again. And google will own all your data. And you don’t need to mess with that pesky sql.

  2. Okay, but why bother with, well, everything they have there now? They’re asking for standalone chunks of data categorized by hand, and the categories are things like “Recipes” and “Vehicles” and “People Profiles”. Throwing your average Web app’s data at Google, but not including any relations along with it, seems to be one step worse than letting Google read the resulting pages.

  3. How low can you go?

    Apart from “Craigslist Killer”, it seems to be one of those “We’re going to throw this versatile tool out there and see what people do with it” things. But not as obvious as mapping or mail.

    I want them to come out with Google Fnord or something which is literally incomprehensible but has lots of functions, and then when someone actually figures out what it does, it’ll be as hard as decoding Donnie Darko and then lol its pinhead.

    I had full caf instead of decaf today.

  4. it kind of reminds me of the really old Yahoo search system, where you registered your site on yahoo and it did a search of its own directory before it went out and searched the web. That was before google was around/became mainstream for internet searching.

    It reminds me of a strange hybrid of family feud. Surely, the “power is in your hands” if you want to publish your stuff there, but it’s up to you to create ‘tags’ or ‘attributes’ that you think will be the most popular, thus getting the most hits, which isn’t exactly what i want the web to be or my own content to be. If i put up a site about ‘flizzleblop’, i don’t want to have to compromise by using the tag ‘used car’ just because it will generate more hits.

    anyway, you don’t know who i am, but i thought i’d find a relatively interesting post to respond to first before stating the true purpose of this comment: your FAQ is not entirely accurate – there is a composer out there named “mendel”. he was named after felix mendelssohn because he has a brother named felix.

    he’s not famous, though, at least not really. he got his masters degree in music composition, but that left him broke because he’s not so good at promoting himself musically, so he’s working now as a tech-support-like guy for Oracle systems for Symantec, and he hasn’t really composed any music in a couple of years, though he’s recently started up some new sketches just for the hell of it.

  5. Well, my FAQ means that I’m not “mendel” because of a composer, not that there’s no-one out there with that (common) name. Obviously I’m not using “mendel” because of someone I hadn’t heard of by now!

    (Occasionally I’ve been known to say I’m named after Joe Mendelson of Mendelson McKenna Mainline, though.)

  6. funny that i’ve never heard of that one. but probably because whenever i search for ‘mendel’ on [search engine] at random when i’m bored, the only stuff that comes up is either about me or about gregor. i never thought about doing a search on “mendel*” to see what sort of endings to mendel there are.

    it’s pretty strange to see a lj user named ‘mendel’. funny how i never ran into you before. you’d think that i might have done a search for something like that. not sure what that says.

    anyway… it’s nice to meet you.

  7. Oh! They were a Canadian blues band from the late 60s.

    I do have trouble getting “mendel” as a username in various places, though, so it’s not uncommon! I ended up having to use “wlonkly” for all of the IM services (except Google Talk, but at that point I used it for consistency); the only reason I got “mendel” on LiveJournal is that the guy that had it first deleted his journal long enough ago that I was able to rename into it after it was purged .

  8. it is uncommon! i am unique! i..! ..uh…!

    nah, i know that mendel isn’t as uncommon as i’d like to believe. a lot of it comes from the fact that it’s an old traditional jewish name.

    the greatest is way a long time ago when i was marching in drum corps, we were staying at a high school and the band director at some point came up to me and said, “is your name mendel?”. i said yeah, and he said, “me too.” it’s the only time i’ve ever met another mendel in real life.

    even though it’s not your real name, you’re the second ‘mendel’ i’ve ever met online.

    good times. :)