In Search OfThe Best Search

    November 9, 2006

So what’s your pleasure? What are you specifically looking for on the Internet and where do you go to find it? Does everyone consider himself or herself a Googler’ or are there alternative and more specific ways of searching for specialized desires or merchandise?

These are legitimate questions for both the Internet business owner and the searching consumer. And all of us are searchers’ at one time or another on the Net. Of course we all know the top dogs of the search engine world: Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. But like garage bands determined to break into the mainstream recording industry with a hit song, there’s always underdogs who will challenge the established order of The Big Guys’ and search engine competition is no exception.

While Google is aware of these competing Vertical Search Engines (defined on Wikipedia as part of a larger subgrouping known as “specialized” search, these are relatively new tiers in the Internet search industry consisting of search engines that focus on specific businesses), the company already has many topic-specific searches integrated into its applications like Google Maps, Google Co-op, and more.

But this hasn’t stopped an onslaught of saavy entreupeneurs from taking their best niche specific ideas into the search engine world with sometimes profitable results. This week, AOL announced the purchase of Relegence, a New York-based search engine specializing in financial news and information for an undisclosed price. Collarity CompassT launched earlier in the week and in a press release describes itself as “being a search engine that automatically ranks search results based on an individual’s interests. By tracking the search terms, url choices, and selections of users and visitors, Collarity responds to a user’s ‘hot spot of interest’ (i.e. query) with sites visited by expert-users in that area.”

The search company Riya just launched its visual search engine, based on appearance in addition to text. The Like engine is particularly apt at finding consumer products that provide, as ZDNet describes, “visual similarity shopping.” Riya found product hunting was a more popular application of their technology among users than facial recognition search, which they tested on MySpace.

What specialized search engine operators are banking on is the hope that as the Web becomes an integral part of modern day living, everyone will want to focus more specifically on their own personal needs and interests. For example, avid shoppers might prefer, a shopping VSE that offers 180 + search site focusing on the best products, deals and price comparisons. Simply Hired offers the largest online database of jobs around the world. There are VSEs covering everything from horror movies, music, real estate, healthcare, travel, television, andwell, you get the idea, there is no limit.

Yet it’s not easy for upstart VSEs to gain a foot in the market. Even if the specific content and overall user experience surpasses the major search engines, there’s still the issues of getting the word out to the public in an overcrowded market and the age old obstacles of marketing and promotional expenses that owners must contend with. The best successes seem to stem from strong word of mouth from early loyal die-hard fans, which can sometimes snowball into much bigger (and profitable) successes.

Only time will tell which of the upstart VSEs will be successful (or purchased by one of the search engine Giants”), but one thing is for certainthey won’t stop cropping up anytime soon.


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Tim Ritter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.