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Google Base Could be Database For Everything

Google sporadically opened base.google.com Wednesday afternoon. It's a do-it-yourself online database to which people can submit, evidently, just about anything.

Is a classifieds offering the next big thing from Google?

The site, which the company says is just a tester, lets users submit information to be stored in Google Base, which the Web page describes as "Google's database into which you can add all types of content. We'll host your content and make it searchable online for free."

The search giant is soliciting items from "description of your party planning service" to "articles on current events from your website" to "listing of your used car for sale." It even lists a "database of protein structures."

Users can describe the item by filling in a series of forms; they can upload or link to pictures, and provide an address or telephone number.

The site says that items may be included in the main Google search index and other Google products like Froogle and Google Local.

Combine Google Base with the company's recent solicitations of data feeds from providers of online classifieds, and you've got a real game-changer, industry executives said.

Even though Google has a stellar brand, the company may need some work to translate its "brand promise" from search to classifieds. According to the Most Trusted Company for Privacy Award, released on Wednesday by TRUSTe and the Ponemon Institute, consumers trust eBay more than they do Google.

The 7,140 consumers were asked to name one to five companies they thought took the most care with personal information. Out of 187 companies named, eBay ranked fifth. Google ranked eleventh, behind AOL, Amazon.com and Proctor & Gamble.

Gautam Godhwani, CEO of SimplyHired, a job meta-search site that adds content, community and tools to listings posted on other sites, welcomed Google Base as another data source. "To the extent that Google becomes another destination, indexing free listings, we're happy to include them," he said.

Craig Donato, CEO of Oodle, another classifieds aggregator, agreed that Google Base would benefit his company by adding more content. "Our job is to provide a single view of the classified marketplace, to let people see listings across multiple sources," Donato said. "From our perspective, the more sources, the better."

But the situation is different for classifieds sites that charge to post listings, such as eBay and craigslist, which charges only for job listings, Godhwani said. "If they offer free listings, anyone who offers paid listings all of a sudden become a competitor to Google, although Google continues to index their data," he said. The situation is particularly thorny for companies such as eBay, which are heavy advertisers on Google.

Donato said Google Base represents a definite shift in Google's business model. "Oodle's perspective has been, you need to make search win/win and not compete with partners in your index. We got that idea from Google, which has a very clean model. … Their job is to get people off their site as quickly as possible. [Now], they're going to start competing with folks in their index by becoming a publisher. If you're Monster.com, it may not feel so good if they're competing with you to take listings."

And compete, they will.

Peter Zollman, CEO of Classified Intelligence, the analyst firm that recently confirmed that recruitment site CareerBuilder was in talks with Google, said the new product could put a crimp in the traffic of eBay and craigslist, for starters.

"EBay's whole proposition is, we'll help you sell or buy your stuff," Zollman said. "Certainly, the community factor and the trust factor is something they encourage and exploit, and part of what eBay is. But, if I can find a better, cheaper, faster way to sell my stuff, I'm going to use it."