Why bother building a website? What if you could list everything in a searchable online catalog instead? Why bother marketing a website? What if that catalog already had a large traffic stream?
Welcome to Google Base – the searchable online database where you can list anything and everything: recipes, collectibles, press releases, jobs, cars and even real estate.
With the Base, Google positions itself as a major e-commerce portal, stepping on a lot of online turf, such as AutoTrader.com, Monster.com, Realtor.com and Amazon.com. But the biggest competitor by far is the leading e-commerce portal – eBay.
Over the past year, Google has rolled out eBay-related competitive features. Google Checkout competes with eBay’s PayPal, and Google has released a Store Connector to help sellers move items from their eBay Store into the Base.
Can Google really beat eBay at its own game? It won’t be easy. The eBay advantage is its huge network effect. Why does everyone sell on eBay? Because that’s where all the buyers are. Why does everyone shop on eBay? Because that’s where all the sellers are. Past competitors, from uBid to Yahoo!, have tried to break this cycle with little success.
eBay is also Google’s largest advertiser, so if the Base drives eBay ad dollars elsewhere, it will cost Google. Indeed, eBay has already moved to a US alliance with Yahoo!.
But Google has a huge advertising advantage over eBay – it can drive existing search traffic to the Base at no cost. Plus, the very nature of the Internet gives Google an edge. eBay is basically a middleman between buyers and sellers. The Internet is very good at eliminating middlemen. Just ask travel agents, record companies and job recruiters whose world was turned upside down by the Internet’s ability to connect buyers and sellers.
In the end, a search engine may be the only middleman that can survive on the Internet. That thought should worry eBay.