Semantics Travel

Google base II

Made it to the airport, despite moose in the road.

First time at an airport since 9/11. Had to unload each laptop in their own trays, my shoes, my coat, and my camera into separate trays (not to mention my two bags). But security was very nice and helpful. And hey! Wireless everywhere!

I’ve been reading some of the more positive reactions to Google, such as Michael Parekh and Burnham’s Beat. Burnham writes:

As for RSS, Google Base represents a kind of Confirmation. With Google’s endorsement, RSS has now graduated from a rather obscure content syndication standard to the exautled status of the web’s default standard for data integration.

First of all, Base supports uploads in RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0, and Atom, not just RSS 2.0. Regardless, saying that RSS is some form of default standard for data integration is the same as saying that we can have any data we want — as long as it fits into a primitive single level hierarchy and can be defined with a few simple attributes. Sure, go ahead: build a data empire on that. When you’re done, I have a nice 25 million row Access database to sell you.

He also writes:

In addition, it should not be lost on people that once Google assimilates all of these disparate feeds, it can combine them and then republish them in whatever fashion it wishes.

That’s true — so do think about this, because you may or may not like how Google takes your data and ‘morphs’ it. And if you decide to host content in the space that Google provides? Note that doing so turns over royalty free/copyright free access to whatever it is you upload.

Oh but I can hear the little soldiers now: Sharing is good! All right thinking people share! I don’t have time to point to it, but you might remember the lesson that the Corante Between Lawyers learned when ’sharing’ isn’t completely defined.

Parekh waxes ecstatic on how Base is going to allow Google to effectively wipe the floor with any and all big companies online:

This makes Google Base kind of the elephant being described by blind-folded folks:
1. “It’s Online Classifieds” and will go after Craigslist.
2. “It’s Online shopping” and will go after eBay and Amazon.
4. “It’s an Online repository for photos, music and videos” and will go after Flickr, iTunes and others.
5. “It’s a way to tag content” and will go after and others.
6. “It’s a way to to put resumes online” and will go after Monster, Indeed and others.
7. “It’s a way to do online photos, music, videos, etc.” and will go after Flickr, iTunes, and others.
8. “It’s a way to back into online databases, potentially word processors and spreadsheets”, and so go after Microsoft.

And so on. The answer is it can be all of those things. And none of them.

And as a bonus for Google, it takes some wind from the sails of all these potential competitors, Web 2.0 or not.

I would beg to differ that this can …be all those things. Even if by some stretch and perversion of RSS we can squish all these things into a syndication feed format (remember syndication feeds?), to define a technology in terms of companies squashed shows an alarming corruption of technology, where tech is now valued based on market share rather than any form of good use or design or even interest.

Regardless, every time I see the glow of gold in the eyes of folks, there’s this little devil that pops up and says, “Eh, time to go to work, Shelley”.

Google Base is centralized. No amount of ‘Google desktop’ integration will change the fact that the Google imprint exists on any and all of this metadata. If Base folds, so does your data. This is the wrong approach to take.

Even if we can store our metadata locally and upload to Base, trying to shove all the world in a little bitty syndication feed box shows that we’re not even interested in stretching ourselves into a world of really rich data. We’re willing to settle for tags, more tags, and maybe a title or two. Is this what we see for the bright new world of the future of the web?

Where’s the hunger in folks? Is being able to ‘monetize’ a technology all that matters any more.


I think Google Base is a fun experiment, and I’m willing to play a little. It will be interesting to see the directory, especially if the company provides web services that aren’t limited to so many queries a day. But I never forget that Google is in the business to make a profit. If we give it the power, it will become the Wal-Mart of the waves–by default if not by design. Is that what you all want? If it is, just continue getting all misty eyed, because you’ll need blurred vision not to see what should be right in front of you.

See what moose do to me? Nothing like a good scare at 3 in the morning to get the creative juices going. See you all in St. Louis.

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