Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Google Base in the Wings: Structured Content Becomes Open Content - Updated

It's a rather grainy screen grab and quite sketchy blog posts clarified by CNET News but a slipup in online testing revealed yet another seismic shift underway at Google: an open online database. No, it's not Oracle for the masses, but it appears to be an ingenious way for people to collect and organize facts in a database format that can be organized into specific data categories of a common or custom design. While the news-breaking Blogcritics post claims that it will be an open source database, it's not clear on the surface that source code will be available for this not-even-in-Alpha product. All very sketchy, and who's to say when or whether this actually emerges into the daylight of the Web, but it makes perfect sense in the broader scheme of things. Silicon.com's take on it is that it's a potential eBay killer, while ClickZ News sees it as a play for classifieds, both of which seem to be grabbing at the legs of a more generic content elephant grasped by Blogcritics: we're talking about open technology that can be used for virtually any purpose in the content marketplace, with or without ecommerce elements attached.

Web-based search has been centered primarily on texts since its inception, with multimedia added to the fray only recently. The missing component that's been a staple of institutional content sources all along has been structured data and digital objects that combine data, functionality and text. For all those who thought that relational databases would protect their content from commoditization, this is a shot across the bow that says: what weblogs did to news, open databases can do to your content. Mind you, mySQL databases as part of the LAMP Web server environment have helped to make databases more common as components driving Web pages, but apparently Google intends to expose databases themselves to Web searching and feeds in a much more generic way than ever before. That's a whole new wrinkle indeed. Keep your eye on this one, it's a powerful new development with enormous implications for content vendors.
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