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Vertical search is the new breed of Search Engines that more intelligently mine data, from searching for keywords in audio files to focusing on specific industry sectors.

The landscape of Search is changing and I recently noticed three vertical search applications, which may end up threatening Google’s position.

The first application, is run by a company known as pluggd.tv, who’s core business is essentially providing a search engine for podcasts. The search engine works by using a patent-pending heatmap technology, which guides users to the content topics that they wish to see or hear.

For instance, if you click on the demo video on the front page of pluggd.tv, and search for the term 'Google' it will highlight all the areas where Google is spoken about on the video timeline.

Meanwhile, the colour scale on the timeline uses heatmap technology to highlight other words that may also be relevant in the video. In this example, some other words are highlighted as possibly relevant are 'YouTube' and 'internet'. A true innovation in search technology.

Pluggd was founded by Alex Castro who at Microsoft was formerly the Group Program Manager for the MSN Entertainment unit, which included the MSN Music, Video, Movies, and TV websites.

The second application is Farecast.com, the travel-based search engine focused on airline tickets. The clever bit comes from applying the idea of the stock market to buying the tickets, which helps you decide the best time to buy a ticket.

For example, if you are looking to buy a ticket from New York to Boston (UK cities are coming) then Farecast will display a graph of all the current prices, and the added benefit of showing you if current prices for tickets are rising or falling. A very neat bit of technology for the thousands of price-sensitive surfers.

Hugh Crean is the CEO of Farecast, who previously had a high flying career at Priceline.com where he was their Vice President of Product Development. Other notable positions he has held are with DLJ, Viacom, and AC Nielsen/Dun & Bradstreet. 

The third and final application, called Retrevo, boasts a search engine that is dedicated to the electronics industry. For example, if you search for a 'Samsung 26 tv' on retrevo.com it provides the work of five search engines in one, aggregating and indexing the following information:

1) Product Manuals
2) Results from the manufacturers website
3) Results from Forums and Blogs
4) Reviews and articles, and
5) Shopping sites.

The whole world of electronics is confusing enough but this is the only search engine I can find that organises and categorises the data in a sensible way.

As you can see, the landscape for search is changing and there are some very high flying entrepreneurs entering this market place. This does seem to pose a threat to Google, however, there will always be a trade-off between generic and specialised applications for search.

Indeed, we may soon use a new breed of search engines, get fed up with the vast range in years to come, and move full circle back to single platforms like Google. Who knows?

Do leave a comment below if you know of any new vertical search applications out there...


Max Worton is founder of SEO agency webefforts , where he maintains a blog .


Published 2 April, 2008 by Max Worton

3 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Thanks Max for recognizing Retrevo in your story. While we do aggregate and organize all the relevant information as you stated, we perform three very important differentiators that you and your readers may find invaluable to save time.

1) For reviews, both expert and end user reviews, we algorithmically generate short summaries of the pertinent pieces of information derived from all of the sources - a huge time savor. Users can read the short paragraphs first before they decide to go read a bunch of individual reviews.

2) We synthesize a holistic view of the community into a single sentiment rating - Community consisting of both experts and consumers.

3) We are the first and only company to provide consumers with a totally new way to shop for products - by value AND user opinion. Our Product Advisor maps all products in a specific category by their capabilities vs market price. This allows consumers to navigate the map and find the products that have the 'best bang for the buck'. Combine this with the community opinion assessment and you have the best left-brain, right-brain balance that help consumers find the best product for them. Try it for yourself - go to www.retrevo.com and click one of the images to start the product advisor for that categroy


over 8 years ago



Just FYI, www.skyscanner.net has been displaying a graph of all the current prices for a long time now.

over 8 years ago


Internet marketing Guide

Great examples above and you obviously did your research thoroughly

Problem is I do not see what is so innovative about any of the above examples.

If any search engine is looking to upstage Google, they will have to do a whole lot better than this

over 8 years ago


Idris Md, Internet Marketing at Mobius

I agree VSE's have their own advantages and it focuses more on specific industry, but this will not threaten Google. They are the masters in the search technology and can easily compete with them (VSE) by bringing up extra feature that might focus only on specific industry. Youtube, Blogsearch, Image search are best examples.

over 8 years ago



The vertical search application that we are finding are gaining the most traction are the more specialized business applications, three examples:

a. search.optics.org run by IOP Publishing on the Convera platform, aimed at scientists into lasers and other optical equipment

b. searchmining.net launched by Aspermont, a go ahead Australian publisher and aimed (obviously) at the mining industry

c. www.MaritimeAnswers.com for the shipping industry - part of Informa's maritime portfolio along with Lloyd's List.

VSE's this specific do seem to differentiate themselves from Google & Co both in terms of user experience and importantly (for the publisher) in terms of advertiser acceptance. Keyword targeting + a rock solid demographic.

An important point that many miss though, is this. It's not just a technology thing, the input of the publisher's staff to tailor the VSE, using their years of experience and direct contact the target community is just as important in differentiating from the mainstream. Its something that Google & Co can't easily match or emulate.

about 8 years ago



my lord, that must of taken a bit of time, some brilliant findings from your research. i must give retrevo a go soon, sounds very helpfull.

thanks again


over 6 years ago



Pluggd sounds like an awsome piece of technology, i will be checking that out, so i guess you just write in, for instance 'cars' and it will search it data base for audio files for anything with 'cars' in it. am i write?

over 6 years ago

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