Google Paves Way For Classifieds

Google appears to be readying its entry into the classified listings space with a new service, Google Base, that allows users to submit information directly to the search giant.

The home page, Base.Google.com, was briefly available earlier this week. Although it was quickly taken down, screen shots posted by Google watchers revealed a page with pre-created categories, such as housing, jobs, products, travel, services, vehicles, and want ads, leading to speculation that Google intends to start a classified service.

"It appears to be a kind of a universal direct content entry point. It does certainly have a classified dimension," said Kelsey Group Analyst Greg Sterling. "But we don't know what the output is going to look like--what is suggested by the site that was up is that it will just be part of the normal Google results."

The page invites users to post and categorize their own items, using either their own category or one that Google has pre-created. The instructions on the site's main page read: "You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base .... based on the relevance of your items, they may also be included in the main Google search index and other Google products like Froogle and Google Local."

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Sterling added that Google could be aiming to create a classifieds market similar to Craigslist, which might be a more effective marketplace than their local search engine. "A marketplace that you could go to get specific kinds of information is a much richer consumer experience than an arrangement of search results with local information," he said.

Another similarity to Craigslist could be the devastating effect that such a free service would have on newspaper classifieds. "A real Google classifieds service that had traction would accelerate the Craigslist effect," he said. "A free listing on Google--which I presume this would be--would similarly potentially take money away from newspapers."

Google, for its part, would not confirm that it intends to start a classified service. "We are testing new ways for content owners to easily send their content to Google," said a Google spokeswoman of Google Base. "Like our Web crawl and the recently released Google Sitemaps program, we are working to provide content owners with an easy way to give us access to their content."

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