Google Base Poses a Dilemma for Businesses

The giant search engine Google is inviting users to send information of all kinds to a new database. Google Base hopes to index everything from recipes to address books to classified ads. The offering is a partnership opportunity for some companies, but that could change if Google decides to cut out the middleman.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Google has taken another step towards its goal of organizing the world's information. The giant search engine is inviting users to send information of all kinds to a new database. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY reporting:

Type `Mama Stamberg's cranberry relish' into the Google search engine and you'll get more than 2,000 listings. But search for my mom's pumpkin pie recipe, and you'll come up empty. There's lots of information that Google cannot search, yet, especially if it's not on a Web site. The new service Google Base hopes to change that. Users can upload their own information, including recipes, address books and classified ads.

Mr. DANNY SULLIVAN (Editor, Search Engine Watch): Anybody who had a classified ad probably would want the traffic from Google coming to them.

HORSLEY: Editor Danny Sullivan of the trade journal Search Engine Watch, says users might find a classified ad through Google they'd never find in a newspaper. That's why CareerBuilder.com, for example, is feeding its job listings into the Google Base. The risk down the line is that Google could decide to cut out the middleman and solicit its own classified ads. Sullivan says the search engine is so popular and so profitable, it can rattle whole industries almost by accident.

Mr. SULLIVAN: Google is doing things very much in the way that Microsoft did things with Windows, where products you used to pay for, they give away for free. Google is improving things for their customers but they're basically giving away a product that they're underwriting through ads that these other players don't have the ability to do it.

HORSLEY: People and businesses who have information have to decide whether it's better to play along with Google, an answer that Sullivan and others are still searching for.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP (Host): And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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