Jitters as Google Tests Classified Ads

An online classified advertising service being tested by Google has set off intense speculation after a Web site for the service was accidentally made public and discovered by a computer programmer.

The service, which was named Google Base and was for a time accessible at base.google.com, described itself as “Google’s database into which you can add all types of content.”

“We’ll host your content and make it searchable online for free,” it said.

The new service could automatically funnel listings on all kinds of subjects and display them as part of the company’s sponsored ad links on the right side of pages displaying search results from Google queries.

Word of the new service, which could compete with newspapers as well as with online classified services like those on eBay and Craigslist, hurt eBay’s stock price on Tuesday. The shares fell nearly 4 percent, or $1.41, to $38.01.

The Google Base page was discovered on Monday by Tony Ruscoe, a British programmer, who said he had created an automatic program to search for subdomains accessible at the Google.com Web site. The company, based in Mountain View, California, took down the test site and replaced the page with a “403″ forbidden-access response.

Google released a statement suggesting that the purpose of the test site was to make it simpler for Google customers to post content on Google.

“We are testing new ways for content owners to easily send their content to Google,” the company said in a statement. “Like our Web crawl and the recently released Google Sitemaps program, we are working to provide content owners an easy way to give us access to their content. We’re continually exploring new opportunities to expand our offerings, but we don’t have anything to announce at this time.”

Google executives, who are having a conference for partners and advertisers, called Google Zeitgeist, would not comment.

EBay is a major Google advertiser.
By John Markoff The New York Times


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