“Is it worth it to reupload the information? I’m not sure. The jury’s still out on that,” Cassara says. Nonetheless, she’s pleased with the results thus far – a 70 percent traffic spike to their site on the first day of Google Base’s launch – and she’s happy to partner with Google. But Cassara also hopes it will become easier for interested parties to find her organization’s offerings on Google Base. “It’s pretty hard to find our information, even though there’s only 25 partners right now,” she says. Cassara also hopes the spike in viewership is sustainable and not just a result of the first-day media attention.
So what is Google’s intention anyway? Certainly, the site’s front page remains a marvel of Zen-like austerity; yet behind the scenes the company’s employees are constructing a complex network of features and functions aimed at bringing more user attention – and ad revenue.
And so far it’s worked marvelously – witness Google’s stock price soaring on November 17 to over $400 per share. But more than any recent product launch by the Leviathan of the Web, Google Base faces an uphill battle. In part, that’s because so much of what it strives to do is already available elsewhere. Sites such as Flickr, YouTube, eBay, Craigslist, MySpace, and Ourmedia all allow users to upload various items, and some allow them to add tags.
Of course it’s too early to judge a product that’s less than a week old. Like other early beta products from Google, though, Google Base is still a bit rough around the edges. For instance, when I attempted to create a personal profile (one of the options for data type), my application was rejected because it claimed (erroneously) that I’d misspelled my name.
At this point, the rumors circulating in many media outlets that Google Base will mark the death of eBay or Craigslist seem wildly premature and off the mark. Certain aspects of the Google service appear aimed at the classified ad market – for example, pages will automatically disappear after 31 days unless otherwise specified. But sellers want a huge marketplace of buyers, and Google Base doesn’t have that yet.
“We…don’t view Google Base as being directed at us,” says Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist. “One of the nice side-benefits of the public-service philosophy we follow is not having to worry about competition.”
The real test for Google Base will come when the information uploaded into it is available through Google’s main search page. Company spokesperson Nathan Tyler said that, while Google hasn’t yet announced plans to do that, it will happen. Yet it won’t be a simple job: Tyler says Google Base uses an entirely different ranking method from Google’s main search page.
Certainly, a new offering from Google – with its enormous war chest and fleet of nimble engineers – is big news. But until Google Base becomes easier to use, and the incentives for doing so become clearer, it’s little more than a curio among the company’s arsenal of tools.