Responding to the public's seemingly insatiable appetite for information, Google has begun publicly testing Google Base, a service designed to host and make searchable "all types of online and offline content," the Mountain View, California, company announced.
Described as an extension of existing Google content collection efforts, such as Web crawl, Google Base lets large companies and individuals alike post data in the form of categorized items that Google will host and make searchable for free, according to Bindu Reddy, a company product manager, in an early-morning entry in Google's official Web log.
"This beta version of Google Base is another small step toward our goal, creating an online database of easily searchable, structured information," Reddy wrote.
Label When You Post
People who post items to Google Base classify the information with keywords or phrases (which Google calls labels) and describe it with terms (which Google calls attributes).
Google Base appears to be Google's most concrete move to date into the realm of user-generated content and tagging, popularized by services such as the Del.icio.us social-bookmarking site and Yahoo's Flickr photo-sharing site.
The range of items that users can post on Google Base encompasses such disparate things as poems, events, recipes, research papers, products, and job postings, according to information on the Google Base Web site.
Though the company bills Google Base as a repository for "all types of online and offline content," some types of content--including items that promote violence and offers of illegal drugs, fake documents, prostitution, and other unlawful activities--are proscribed. You can find a full description of Google Base guidelines and editorial policies here.
Not a Search Substitute
In addition to appearing on Google Base, items posted there may surface in Google's main Web index, in the Froogle comparison-shopping site, and in the Google Local listing of businesses.
In fact, Google does not intend to promote Google Base as a service for information searchers, since the plan is to make Google Base data appear in the company's various search services, said Salar Kamangar, a Google vice president of product management, in an interview.
"Our primary goal with Google Base is to extend the ways we have of collecting content to make more information available to searchers," Kamangar said. "Google Base is intended as an information store for other Google properties."
The Google Base search service is primarily geared toward those who feed content to it, so they can see how their results appear and can experiment with labels and attributes, he said.
"We're not driving [search] users to Google Base," he said. "This content will be searchable in some way from other Google properties."
For example, an item posted for sale will appear in Froogle searches, while a business listing will appear in Google Local. In a matter of weeks, Google's general Web search will begin delivering Google Base results that are appropriate to that service, Kamangar said.
Not Specifically for Classifieds
Google Base isn't built to be specifically an online classified-ads service, as was rumored when news of Google Base first surfaced in late October. "We could have done many things differently if that had been the intent," he said.
Those rumors returned last week with the public disclosure of a Google patent application describing a system called Google Automat that would help individuals advertise products and services online.
Historically, Google has relied heavily on pulling information from Web sites and then indexing it, but the company is now increasing the options it offers for pushing information over to Google, he said. One such service is Google Video, a repository for videos that users upload in order to have them indexed and hosted. But Google Base is open to a wider variety of information. "It's a more general way for people to push information to us," Kamangar said.
Individuals and companies whose Web sites and information are already indexed by Google probably don't need to re-enter that information in Google Base, unless they want to label and categorize their data more granularly, he said.
The new service should be very attractive to individuals and companies interested in feeding Google information that the service hasn't yet indexed, either because the information isn't online or because it's online but technically difficult or impossible for Google to index, Kamangar said.