Thursday, December 1, 2005

Is Google Base a Back Door for Metadata and a Deeper Amazon Alliance?

Google Base is filling up with content faster than a college mixer once the kegs are tapped. Both content and commerce-related items are being posted in a broad array of sectors, with most entries being outbound links to existing items' Web pages, a la eBay and other online services. One oddity about the "who" of this became fairly evident after a stroll through some product listings: many of the items being posted are from Amazon, though you wouldn't notice that from a casual glance. A relatively random query on products shows what appears to be a random array of Web sites posting books and other goods - booksforasteal.com, bideals.com, checkcheap.com - until you click on the links. They all lead to items posted at Amazon.com. Google Base provides Amazon with a more anonymous ecommerce environment for those who are looking for more home-grown suppliers, a way for Amazon to appeal to an eBay crowd without having to pay the eBay/PayPal freight for execution. An interesting thought when one remembers Amazon's plans to make more eBooks available for sale and possible rental.

Google Base remains amorphous, messy and not terribly usable just yet, but you can begin to see clearly the outlines of how it's intended to be used. The data items that one can store in a Google Base record relative to a link become keywords for faceted navigation to those items stored elsewhere, providing fast and efficient filtering based on specific area of interests. And with this faceted navigation will come the potential to provide highly targeted ads and/or specialized storefronts for a range of goods. In this sense Google Base is a giant metadata factory, providing navigation elements based on user-contributed records that would not appear in typical Web page metadata. It's not the way that most companies would build metadata, but with a tip of the hat to social bookmarking tools with which users contribute keywording for Web pages it's a pretty clever way to encourage people to index the Web in a highly efficient, user-focused way. So much also for OpenURLs and DOIs - just keep your record in Google Base up to date and the world will beat a path to your content. Maybe.
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