|Google Inc. unintentionally
provided a sneak peek at what appears to be a looming expansion
into classified advertising -- a free service that might
antagonize some of the Internet search engine's biggest
customers, including online auctioneer eBay Inc.
Screen shots of the experimental service, dubbed Google Base,
appeared on several Web sites Tuesday.
of people who dissect the online search engine leader's every
move discovered a link to a page inviting people to list things
like a used car for sale, a party planning service and current
Newspapers such as the
Detroit Free Press
may suffer as a result of Google classified ads.
Google confirmed the development of the service hours after taking
down the link.
"We are testing new ways for content owners to easily send their
content to Google," the Mountain View, Calif.-based company said.
"We're continually exploring new opportunities to expand our
offerings, but we don't have anything to announce at this time."
By offering a forum that would enable people to sell goods and
services without paying for advertising, Google might hurt eBay, a
major buyer of online ads that account for most of Google's profits.
EBay depends on the fees it receives for helping to sell all kinds
of products and services, including items that might be listed for
free on Google Base. The San Jose, Calif.-based company also owns a
25% stake in Craigslist, a popular site that offers free classified
ads in more than 100 cities.
Google also has confirmed it's working on an online payment service,
but CEO Eric Schmidt has said the service won't compete with
Another free online classified ad service would pose another threat
to newspapers, which already are squeezed in the cities where
Craigslist provides free listings.
Through most of its seven years, Google has depicted itself as
delivering people to other destinations that contain desired
information or products.
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