Editors Note: Amalie L. Tuffin is a member of the Research Triangle Park law firm of Daniels Daniels & Verdonik, P.A. TechLaw is a regular feature in LocalTechWire.
_______________________________________________________________________________________Earlier this month, Google unholstered yet another weapon in its stated quest to organize all of the world’s information.
Google’s new service, called Google Base (as in database), is now up and running in beta test form at base.google.com . Google describes Google Base as “a place where you can easily submit all types of online and offline content that we’ll host and make searchable online.”
In other words, Google Base is intended to be a mammoth user-created database that catalogs almost anything imaginable–other than drugs, bombs, body parts and other questionable items Google bans from its site. Rather than Google searching the Web for information to catalogue, with Google Base the information is being input directly into Google’s servers, ready to be searched and manipulated, not only within Google Base but, in some cases on Google’s main search page, on its shopping site Froogle, or on Google Local, its local search service.
How Does Google Base Work?
A user who wants to upload information into Google Base first chooses an item type. Google has suggested about a dozen item types covering the spectrum of what browsers do online–and in real life. These include “blogs,” “course schedules,” “events and activities,” “jobs,” “news and articles,” “people profiles,” “products,” “recipes,” “reference articles,” “services,” “vehicles,” “wanted ads” and “rentals.” Users can also create their own item types if their item does not fit well into one of the suggested categories. Then the user is given the ability to provide information about their item, including an item description, photos, location and payment details etc.
The editing process includes the ability to assign up to ten attributes to an item using easily searchable tags listing the attributes of an item. Google also provides processes for bulk uploading of item information in formats like RSS and ATOM. Once the item is posted, it will appear either with a link to the user’s web page or, if the poster doesn’t have their own website, on a Google-hosted page created just for that user. The information is immediately catalogued and searchable; no more waiting for Google’s web crawlers to arrive.
Why should anyone care about Google Base? What difference does it make when much of the posted information or items can probably be found elsewhere?
First, Google Base will organize all types of information into one, easily searchable site so, rather than go from place to place to place in search of different types of items and information, it will all be in one place. Second, the postings are free. If the service takes off and attracts lots of traffic, it will potentially pose a threat to eBay, to newspaper classifieds, to dating sites like Match.com, etc., all of which charge fees for their services. Google is known to be developing its own payment system, tentatively named Google Wallet, to compete with PayPal and other online payment services. Google Base would be a potent source of customers for such a service.
In addition, the site is expected to host large amounts of information that are not normally otherwise catalogued by Google’s web crawlers, which do not usually reach down into internal databases. For example, published sources indicate that the World Resources Institute has already uploaded a 5-million item database on sustainable development, with articles spanning over a century and covering development issues in more than 200 countries. Similar efforts by others are expected. It is important to note that because this information is being submitted by the owners of the information with permission to use it in the intended manner, this should avoid the copyright law controversy associated with Google Print, discussed by my colleague Caroline Rockafellow in her recent TechLaw article Google Print Library Project; Valuable Asset or Copyright Breaker? localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=12585
The Service is Already a Popular One
Even though the site has only been up in beta test format for a short time, it is obvious that it is being taken seriously. General Motors has hundreds of vehicles posted on the site. People have posted their resumes, personal ads, apartments for rent, vacation homes. As of this writing, over 60,000 reference articles have been posted. Professors at numerous universities around the world have posted their course schedules and syllabi. RTP’s own ChannelAdvisor has already announced that it will provide services for users of Google Base that are similar to the services it provides to sellers on eBay and other auction sites.
Given Google’s popularity and the level of trust users seem to have in its search results as well as its other services, early results like these suggest that sites such as Match.com, eBay, and newspaper classifieds may need to start thinking about how to counter Google Base.
Daniels Daniels & Verdonik, P.A. has been serving the legal needs of entrepreneurial and high technology clients for more than 20 years. Amalie L. Tuffin concentrates her practice in the representation of entrepreneurial and technology-based business, focusing on corporate, taxation and securities matters. Questions or comments can be sent to email@example.com.