Today Google announced on their blog that they’re updating Google Base, and making it a subcategory of their new Google Merchant Center. Apparently the interface will remain largely the same, but there will be more features for promoting products, uploading products, and interaction with their pay server, Google Checkout.
Honestly, though, this is largely non-news, as GB has never achieved the success it was trying for: Being competition for eBay and Craigslist.
Similarly, Google Checkout never became the PayPal killer it was supposed to be.
In my opinion, it’s because the average user, while very aware of the Google brand, doesn’t associate it with shopping. Craigslist and eBay were obviously built on that. Despite the ease of use of the Google system, their commitment to marrying it to the Google brand may be what holds them back.
Take YouTube. Three years ago, Google Video was in fact superior to YouTube in many ways. It had better video compression, titles could be found more easily, (thanks to their search algorithm,) and videos can be downloaded to portable players. Still, YouTube was the winner in on line video. Google purchased YouTube, and perhaps more importantly their brand, and as a result Google now rules on line video.
Yahoo! did the same thing with Flickr and Delicious. Both of these are owned by Yahoo!, but they exist as their own entities. People who never used Yahoo! search are still dedicated users of these other sites. Google has their own version of Flickr in Picasa, but this is still tightly intermeshed with the Google platform itself, so it’s hardly it’s own brand.
I have to wonder why Google doesn’t simply spin off their merchant services into another name. All of us smartypants insiders would know who owns them, but the layman would simply see it as a new tool. While it’s tough to build a brand from scratch, it’s much more difficult to expand an existing brand into unrelated territory.