It sounds a little like the ability to comment upon, and rate books, at Amazon.com. But the scope appears much larger - the commercial web as a whole. Or at least the commercial web as seen through Froogle.
It's an interesting approach for Google, which is branching out from its roots as a way to search the web.
Though, looking closely at those roots may show something else.
At a Presentation by Google's Larry Page last February, he had this to say about the intentions behind building Google:
"It wasn't that we intended to build a search engine. We built a ranking system to deal with annotations. We wanted to annotate the web--build a system so that after you'd viewed a page you could click and see what smart comments other people had about it. But how do you decide who gets to annotate Yahoo? We needed to figure out how to choose which annotations people should look at, which meant that we needed to figure out which other sites contained comments we should classify as authoritative. Hence PageRank.
"Only later did we realize that PageRank was much more useful for search than for annotation..."
Annotating the web. It's something that people blogging do. When Google purchased Blogger, a lot of people with blogs started pointing at how the acquisition would help Google to track and follow what bloggers felt was important on the web.
Maybe Google is using that information, and maybe they aren't. But the Froogle effort appears a lot more transparent, and seems like an approach to not only see what people think of a site, but also make it easy for others to share those comments. Is this reputation managment?
It's kind of interesting to slip back 6 years, and look at an old Jakob Nielsen article on Reputation Management. I don't know if we will ever arrive at the type of reputation management that he writes about, but I sort of feel that we might be a little closer if the Froogle rating system catches on:
The simplest reputation manager would compute the average rating for each information source, but more advanced services would use ideas from collaborative filtering and compute different ratings for different users. Basically, the reputation manager would find other users whose tastes are very similar to your own and give added weight to these users' ratings. Since the Web will have half a billion users in five years, it will always be possible to find other users who match your interests, no matter how obscure they are. Thus, the reputation manager can deal differently with people who love the Spice Girls and people who don't.
How popular will Froogle's rating system become? It's difficult to tell at this point, but if the popularity of Amazon's system is any sign, it might catch on in a big way.
If you have a commercial web site that sells products, you might want to spend a little time on Froogle's page for Froogle Merchants - Frequently Asked Questions, and spend the time to put together a Froogle Feed.