Happy Birthday Google Base, Part 2

The birthday party for Google Base--which I started in last week's column--deserves an extended celebration. Here are more observations on the service that's rewriting the rules of search.

Absence of History: Searches in Google Base don't appear saved in your personal search history when you're logged in to your Google account. Google only includes Web, image, and news searches in your personalized search history. Personally, I wouldn't mind Base's integration with personalized results; if I'm opting to sign in anyway, having some recollection of my Base searches would come in handy.

Consumer Generated Search Results: Google offers some insight of its own into its vision for Base. At the bottom of the Base homepage, it reads, "Other ways to submit information to Google include Google Video, Google Print, and Google Sitemaps." The types of content required for these services are radically different; one requires you to have produced a video, the next requires you to have authored a book, and the last one requires you to be a Webmaster. Base takes those higher bars and lowers them to the floor. I reviewed the movie "Gattaca" with a headline, a star rating, one line of text, and a link to the Internet Movie Database. That's all it took, and I'm published in Google. I didn't need to create anything myself.



X Marks the Base: Google Base has an inadvertent sense of humor. As I was testing to see if there were any filters for R or X-rated content, I tried selecting the link at the bottom where Google asks, "Dissatisfied? Help us improve." The form on the subsequent page said, "You searched for porn. Please tell us what specific information you were seeking. Also tell us why you were dissatisfied with the search results." There are way too many entertaining possibilities for responding, but given that I was testing this out with my main Google account, I had to hold back.

The filters themselves are rather lax. When searching Google Images, it's easy to exclude explicit content. Google Base wasn't designed for that; the filtering is supposed to happen at the time of posting, not at searching. The posting policies for Google Base are the same as those for AdWords, but it's easier to tell when Google's filter is off-guard with Base, since thumbnails are returned with the listings. Some R-rated images turned up, but ultimately it's just a mirror of the content available online. If middle school students are searching for dirty pictures, they will will find a few in Base. They'll also find such illicit content as Terrell Owens football cards.

Fun with Google: Google Base should also lead to new games a la GoogleBombing and GoogleWhacking. I'll coin a new one: BaseStumping. Try to search for something that isn't in Google Base. A few successful BaseStumps I tried: venomous monkeys, Borat (the Kazakh alter-ego of Ali G), and MediaPost. This game will get progressively harder as Base catches on.

The One and Only Barrier: Google places one simple demand on everyone who posts: sign up for a Google account. This account provides the keys to Base, Gmail, personalized search, and other services. Registered users is one of the few areas where Google lags behind the portals. The importance of this was underscored in a previous column, "Google Talk Pays for Itself": "[By registering,] it keeps getting easier to search on Google--another barrier lifted. This gives Google's advertisers more keyword inventory. And that's just step one. Steps two through 50 involve ad targeting, starting with demographics and then going by search history and then graduating to behavior and, one day, Google discovers it's so darn smart it becomes your personal valet."

With Base, Google's getting smarter in a hurry--so fast that we'll return to cover its progress well before Base reaches the ripe old age of one.

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