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we're launching the Google Merchant Center, which will replace Google Base for those of you submitting Product-type items to Google. If you submit products to Google, Google Merchant Center is now the place to upload your feeds, check on the status of your items, and get information on the performance of your listings.
Google Base is still available for other types of structured content, but the Merchant Center provides a better, optimized experience specifically for product listings. The Merchant Center is where we'll continue adding features and improving the tools for uploading and managing product listings.
Is this the bit where all the data gets chopped up for the benefit of users and the detriment of webmasters?
Depends. Some webmasters--those who make and sell the widget, for example--will find this useful. Those webmasters who only make websites that point to the widget* and even retailers of the widget that buys from from the maker, however, will not be too keen on this.
*These webmasters are similar to how newspapers once were. Which is why newspapers are focusing on selling what they make--news. Yeah, I know, but that's not my problem anymore...
Does anyone have a template for their datafeed ... I assume it's XML?
There's a lot of flexibility and opportunities for customisation to match your product type with regards to submitting a feed, there's a lot of information here: http://base.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=11271 [base.google.com]
I haven't logged into Base for a long time, I've just had a look at Merchant and it appears to have a new performance tool (maybe that was in Base and I didn't notice?), other than that my feed no longer registers any errors whereas previously Base was reporting a seemingly random unfixable error relating to IDs in the Data quality tab. Right now there doesn't seem to be a great deal of difference, maybe there's more good things to come?