There's a lot of talk today about the supposed leak of a product called Google Base, with plenty of people predicting that this is a shot across the bow of eBay or Craigslist. While that could be the end result, it doesn't seem like that's the real target for this offering at all. Years back (when I still remembered how to do database design and SQL queries) I needed to do a quick prototype of a web-based application, and came across a great little service (long since deceased) called ActiveSpace. It was, basically, an online database system with an easy front-end creation tool and a little bit of middleware magic. Basically, everything you'd need to quickly build your own web-based app without having to do any of the real dirty work or set up a real database yourself. That went away, but soon afterwards, Intuit launched a similar (though, not nearly as useful) system called Quickbase. All of these systems realized the basic fact that most software is really just a front-end stuck on a database, with just a little magic in the middle to help make the app do what it needed to do. By having a simple, easy to set up database tool online, with easy front-end development tools, you can build simple applications without too much trouble at all. It appears that's exactly what Google is trying to do with Google Base. It's not about taking on Craigslist or eBay -- both of which are more about the community than the technology -- but about enabling people to create their own specialized apps, using a simple online database powered with Google's search tools. If this sounds familiar, it's the whole concept behind situated software, where people are developing specific apps that fit their needs, rather than for a huge community. In other words, Google Base seems more like something that the folks at Ning and Jotspot should be concerned about, rather than anyone at Craigslist and eBay. Of course, what isn't clear is what kind of tools Google then provides for adding front-end capabilities to the Google Base -- but that would be the next obvious step if I were building the tool.
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