RSS and Google Base: Google Feeds Off The Web
There has been a lot of talk about Google Base today on the web and much of the reaction appears to be either muted or negative. The lack of enthusiasm seems to be driven by the fact that the GUI is pretty rudimentary and doesn't provide any real-time positive feedback (as Fred points out). But people that are turned off by the GUI should take into account that Google Base wasn't designed primarily for humans; it was designed for computers. In fact, I think if people were computers their reaction would be closer to jumping for joy than scratching their heads.
What's perhaps most interesting about the Google Base design is that it appears to have been designed from the ground up with RSS and XML at its center. One need look no further then the detailed XML Schema and extensive RSS 2.0 specification to realize that Google intends to build the world's largest RSS "reader" which in turn will become the world's largest XML database.
To faciliate this, I suspect that Google will soon announce a program whereby people can register their "Base compliant" RSS feeds with Google base. Google will then poll these feeds regularly just like any other RSS reader. Publishers can either create brand new Base-compliant feeds or with a bit of XSLT/XML Schema of their own they can just transpose their own content into a Base compliant feed. Indeed I wouldn't be surprised if there are several software programs available for download in a couple months that do just that. Soon, every publisher on the planet will be able to have a highly automated, highly structured feed directly into Google base.
Once the feed gets inside Google the fun is just beginning. Most commentators have been underwhelmed by Google Base because they don't see the big deal of Google Base entires showing up as part of free text search. What these commentators miss, is that Google isn't gathering all this structured data just so they can regurgitate it piece-meal via unstructured queries, they are gathering all this data so that they can build the world's largest XML database. With the database assembled, Google will be able to deliver a rich, structured experience that, as Michael Parekh sagely points out, is similar to what directory structures do, however because Google Base will in fact be a giant XML database it will be far more powerful than a structured directory. Not only will Google Base users be able to browse similar listings in a structured fashion, but they will also ultimately be able to do highly detailed, highly accurate queries.
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. Google Base will thus become the automated engine behind a whole range of other Google extensions (GoogleBay, GoogleJobs, GoogleDate) and it will also enable individual users to subscribe to a wide range of highly specific and highly customized meta-feeds. "Featured listings" will likely replace or complement AdWords in this implementation, but the click-though model will remain.
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. Google's endorsement should in turn push other competitors to adopt RSS as their data transport format and process of choice. This adoption will in turn force many of the infrastructure software vendors to enhance their products so that they can easily consume and produce RSS-based messages which in turn will further cement the standard. At its highest level, Google's adoption of RSS represents a further trimph of REST-based SOA architectures over the traditional RPC architecture being advanced by many software vendors. Once again, short and simple wins over long and complex.
In my next post I will talk about Google Base's impact on the "walled garden" listings sites. I'll give you a hint: it won't be pretty.
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The thoughts and opinions on this blog are mine and mine alone and not affiliated in any way with Inductive Capital LP, San Andreas Capital LLC, or any other company I am involved with. Nothing written in this blog should be considered investment, tax, legal,financial or any other kind of advice. These writings, misinformed as they may be, are just my personal opinions.