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Google Off Base?

© December 2005 Tony Lawrence

Google just turned on another beta service: Google Base

I am completely confused and I think Google is too.

At their blog, Google tells us that Google Base is "an extension of our existing content collection efforts like web crawl, Google Sitemaps, Google Print and Google Video". Here's Google apparently giving us an opportunity to tag our content so that they can more easily know what it is and provide more accurate results.

Great: why don't they let us do that with Sitemaps? Why can't we add tags there that would tell Google what our pages are about? The accepted answer has always been because that would let us lie to Google and they'd prefer to make their own analysis. So how the heck does Google Base fit in then? Why is it OK to add tags here (Base calls tags "labels") but not OK for Sitemaps?

Or to look at it the other way: why do we have to do Sitemaps if we have this? Is this intended to replace and extend Sitemaps? Having a bulk upload capability that lets you describe a whole pile of content at once and assign unique id's to each piece looks like a replacement for Sitemaps to me. It looks like we can just take the RSS feeds we're producing anyway, add the Google namespace and tags/labels we want, and just give them that.. though that process seems a little confusing so far. It requires registering a file name and then uploading it. I've tried to do that twice now and am getting xml errors. Maybe my fault; I'll be double checking. But it would seem that Sitemaps and this would largely overlap: assuming Google intends to use this data in the same way and add Base items to ordinary search. That's not necessarily the case. But if not, there's going to be a lot of overlap and duplication of effort, isn't there?

In the meantime, you can add individual items easily, and these can be links to your web pages with added tags to help describe what the page is about. I did that without any problems. So have a lot of other folks: Right now, a lot of recruiters seem to be using it for job listings, and there are numerous "for sale" type postings. Oh, and recipes. Lots of recipes. Google says part of the purpose of Base is to list things that would otherwise be hard to find on the web.. yeah, job listings and recipes are so hard to find, right?

Overall, Google Base is very confusing - they've done a simply horrible job positioning and presenting this. It looks to me that this is going to fill up quickly with junk. The problem, of course, is the free form tags: just like every other tagging system, the junk stuff is tagged six ways from Sunday with everything the provider can imagine, whether it's appropriate or not.

See Whatever Happened To... Google Base also.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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