Michael Parekh wrote an interesting post outlining why he thinks Google Base is a milestone for the Internet. The gist of it is:
"With Google Base, the company now POTENTIALLY has a human-powered directory of it's own, that can supplement results to it's core search engine. It's Yahoo!'s early approach in reverse. And this time around, it's not just dozens or hundreds of humans powering the directory, it's potentially millions.
To put it in fashionable Web 2.0 terms, it's a microchunked directory powered by peer production. To put in mainstream terms, Google Base is a Lego set for users to submit and categorize any kind of content that's important to them."
Michael goes on to say that Google Base content could then be listed first in its search results, providing a human-generated structured layer on top of the machine-created search results. I think this analysis is spot-on and it gels with Google's own slant on its new product, as noted by Charlene Li after her briefing with them: "Google sees Base as a natural step in their quest to organize the world’s information."
Bill Burnham elaborated in on Michael's theory in a separate post. Bill wrote that Google Base "appears to have been designed from the ground up with RSS and XML at its center." So if Google is adding a structured content layer on top of their search results, then they're doing it using RSS and XML.
Bill concludes that Google is in the process of building the world's largest XML database.
This is all heady stuff and I'm not entirely convinced Google has actually got such a grand strategy. Perhaps this is their strategy: to release half-formed beasts like Google Base into the wild Web network and wait for smart humans like Michael and Bill to come up with a strategy for them!
Of course, Google Base is not without its potential problems. The main one I see is that the data millions of people enter into Google Base may not be as valuable as Google wishes it to be. By which I mean, it'll attract spammers like flies and even content entered by genuine people may be (ahem) crap. Google could in fact be building the world's largest database of structured shite.
But that's not to diminish the very fine points brought up by Michael and Bill. Google Base may not be pretty to look at and it may be a centralized database, but the potential is there to turn it into a hugely valuable directory of structured content. Plus if they add APIs and start aggregating outside RSS feeds, then they could easily extend Google Base and remove the issues around it being a 'walled garden'.