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Google Base is Full of Crap, Literally

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Yep, Google Base is chock full of spam links, credit card offers and get rich quick schemes. It’s all pretty predictable really. This isn’t all Google’s fault and it’s great to see them trying out a risky (and perhaps revolutionary) idea, but inevitably when you open up a service to user generated content, you can expect to get some fairly questionable material. Run a search for something spammy (poker, money etc) and you’ll find a familiar array of affiliate links and “free money” offers. Even if you simply browse Base, you’ll find it littered with items which are nothing more than blatant ads. And why not? For spammers, Base makes it easier than ever to siphon off traffic from Google’s neverending supply. Greg Linden commented on the same issues earlier today:

There isn’t much content yet but, as content is added, the trick will be keeping spam and crap out. I expect Google Base to be treated like a free version of Google AdWords by many. I doubt it will take long for people to upload your usual assortment of credit card offers, domain name services, get-rich-quick schemes, and exciting new ways to increase the size of your willy to elephantine proportions.

So, how will they help people find the relevant stuff and filter out the crap? At this point, it isn’t clear. We’ll have to wait and watch.

Of course, this is the exact same problem that eBay experiences. However, eBay has the benefit of a loyal community - the community exists to enforce the rules in a way that algorithms or employees never could. Even though spam postings can stay on eBay for months at a time, many get reported by dilligent users and are eventually pulled down. Sure, Google has placed a “Report Bad Item” button next to the entries in Base, but is this really enough?

In the past, user-generated content has gone hand in hand with community - eBay, Flickr, Epinions, Shoposphere. Google Base has the content, but the community is notably absent and the spammers are free to do as they please. I’m really hoping that Google has created a revolutionary system for acquiring clean, structured data - but right now it’s being hijacked by the texas holdem brigade.

[Google Blog] [Umair Haque] [Michael Parekh] [many, many more]

I think Google Base is a great move for them as they need to move away from the keyword search paradigm. I don’t believe the spam will survive as it can be identified and filtered better than other channels (mail, phishing sites, etc.) since they own the database.    

Google let the spammers in. Why? Google is hungry for data and patterns. The more, the better. Google wants to study this kind of structured data. It’s a simple military strategy: let your enemies in, observe their behaviour, then kill them.    

By Anonymous Bindesh on 11/18/2005 08:01:00 PM

I’m not sure the spam problem is exactly the same as the one eBay faces. eBay charges for listing, so spam or bogus listings have a cost.

Amazon and Yahoo both ran free auction listings at various points in their histories; both filled with crap quickly.    

Good point. Free is much cheaper! Of course, it might not even matter that Google Base is full of spam - is it really designed for humans anyway?

It’s easy to speculate that Google has:

a) Big plans to create the world’s most comprehensive database

b) No specific plans at all

The fact is that nobody knows. But Google does tend to just put things out there and see what sticks - Froogle is a comparable service which hasn’t gone anywhere yet. I think Base is a similar story - they’ve put it out there in the hope that it might catch on.    

By Anonymous No one on 11/18/2005 08:02:00 PM

I’m looking at this from another angle, posting a wanted ad and seeing what happens:

Google is such a traffic behemoth that this will be fantastic if it works.

Can’t say I have a clear opinion on their plans or the spam problem, but surely they don’t need to have Google Base desecrated in order to analyse spam? There’s plenty of it elsewhere on the web!    

“surely they don’t need to have Google Base desecrated in order to analyse spam”

Yeah, I agree. Saying it’s “all part of their grand plan” is baloney. Have they left the spam in Google Search results so they can analyse it better? No - they’ve left the spam in there because their algorithms can’t get rid of it. Did they fill Blogspot with spam blogs and spark a massive outrage in the blogosphere so they could understand spam better? No - they did it because they were either unable or unwilling to remove the junk. They’ve now finally started to clean up Blogspot. The fact is, spam just damages the reputation of a company.

But Google Base also has a lot of promise: it could potentially become akin to the much-heralded semantic web if successful. So I don’t want to be *all* negative about this - I actually think it might work out.    

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