Google vs eBay

Search giant Google, Inc. tipped its hand this week to Google Base, it’s much-rumored auction service that many people believe is meant to compete against auction sites like eBay or CraigsList. Screen shots of “Google Base,” available on several different Web logs, explain that the service-to-be is a database consisting of “your content” that’s free to contribute.

Items in the database include a party invite or a “listing of your used car for sale.” There is also a tie-in mentioned to Google’s comparison shopping site Froogle, and Google Local, the combination Google mapping and localized search results. Google said, in a prepared statement, that what the blogs alluded to is an “early-stage test of a product that enables content owners to easily send their content to Google.”

A Google spokeswoman also confirmed the accuracy of the screen shots, but wouldn’t comment further. With each incremental tip of its hand, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Google is creating a service meant to mirror that of any auction Web site, where it could generate revenues by placing advertisements at various stages of the process. Analysts repeatedly say Google’s user base, which is in the hundreds of millions of users, would be an instant challenge to eBay, the auction pioneer, or more community focused sites like Craigslist.

For now, though, such a Google service is largely a creation of the blogosphere, analysts, journalists and other Google watchers, which almost on a weekly basis are unearthing new clues. One of those analysts, Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li, “muses” on her blog that Google could capitalize on its existing ties to thousands of businesses, which already advertise on Google Web pages.

eBay flew under Google’s radar long enough,” writes Om Malik, a senior writer for Business 2.0 magazine. Other commentators bring up Google competitor Yahoo’s failed attempt at an online payment system. In 2000, Yahoo created a PayDirect feature, only to shut it down earlier this year.

The Mountain View, Calif. Internet giant is continually showing such signs, the last one coming Oct 13 when it confirmed it was testing an online payment system, another in the pieces it needs to configure a competitor to auction. Also at the time, several other Google watching blogs unearthed a Google “purchases” registration page, which asks for credit card information. Rumors of an eBay killer to come from Google date back to at least June, when Scot Wingo, chief executive officer of Web commerce consultant ChannelAdvisor, said Google had asked some of his clients to use an online payment system known as Google Wallet.

Since then, the rumors have only grown stronger and increased in number. For instance, another recent Google Wallet development involved the Sept. 6, 2005 discovery of a job listing for a Google “fraud operations director, merchant payment solutions.”

Back in June, at the peak of the last Google Wallet rumor cycle, Google confirmed it was planning to expand into broader online payment services to handle payments from advertisers and to Web publishers in Google’s popular online advertising programs, but gave no additional details.


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