In any case, I think the spin Google gave on Google Catalog’s closing is a bit …. well it’s spin. We all do it. Let’s revisit the launch of Google Catalog, courtesy Danny’s SEW, which was deep into reporting mode when Catalog launched. (Danny has moved on to SEL).
My first thought upon seeing the service was “Why?” Of all the things Google could choose to make searchable, why target mail order catalogs? Shopping-oriented searches do make up a significant chunk of any search engine’s queries, so launching some type of shopping search service does make sense. But why not instead target online merchant stores?
The answer from Google is that mail order catalogs provide more comprehensive product listings than can be found online and that making catalogs searchable was something it could do easily.
“A number of people [at Google] thought offline catalogs are much better than online shopping sites,” said Urs Hvlzle, Google Fellow and member of Google’s executive management team.
Explaining further, Hvlzle said a major drawback to print catalogs is that you generally only have a few in your home and there’s no way to easily “search” within them. Google Catalogs solves this by letting you search through a virtual library of catalogs.
I guess not many folks really wanted to do that, given that the web itself, in a way, is already “a virtual library of catalogs.” Back in 2002, however, it was arguable that there was way more structured product data in catalogs than there was on the web. Now, well, not so much.