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?

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