Google Base Portends a Structured Web

I wrote a piece at Between the Lines today about the newly launched Google Base. Google Base has been described variously as an online database, competition for CraigsList, or Google's first crack at eBay. And of course, Base is being judged in that light:

Google Base can be used to store information of any sort--the company seems to like using recipes as an example. Already, there's commercial stuff like classified ads and job listings in there; the service has been described as an eBay killer or a Craigslist killer. At the moment, it's clearly very far from being either.

I recently sold a wristwatch on eBay and was struck by just how highly-evolved that service is--it not only has scads of general features for buying and selling (and in PayPal, the mechanism for moving the payment between parties), it has tools specifically for people selling vintage watches, and for folks doing many, many other specialized tasks. It took eBay a decade to get so powerful and easy to use, and I don't see Google Base catching up anytime soon, even though its features for defining data types are, in a sense, an attempt to get users to do some of the heavy lifting that eBay's done itself.
From Google Base is Live
Referenced Wed Nov 16 2005 09:54:30 GMT-0700 (MST)

I think this misses the point. Base isn't about being an eBay replacement. Base is about Google's bread and butter: better searches. Google wins in two ways:

  1. They don't have to crawl for the data
  2. The is structured and so Google can create better indexes from it.

This idea of structuring the Web is more found more generally in microformats and other similar efforts. I think it's one of the important memes of Web 2.0.