Back in about 1997, when I was starting out RVClub.com, I wanted a search engine for just RV-related Web sites. Back then, searching Alta Vista or RV-related stuff was atrocious. A common search would return results that had nothing to do with recreational vehicles.
My interest in a niche search, if you can call a directory listing search, began with East County Online when I built a Yahoo!-like directory of all the east San Diego County Web sites I could find.
But getting at actual search — that was beyond my meager reach. It took more server horsepower and programing than I could muster.
Right around this time, HotBot had a customizable search widget that allowed you to input a few URLs and search just those URLs, but it was buggy and incomplete.
Then Andy Beal rescued me — for a time. WaveShift had a beta going of a niche search engine and RVClub.com became a beta test site. I fed him about 50 URLs and visitors to RVClub.com could search just those RV-related Web sites.
The beta lasted about a year, and then WaveShift dropped the product.
Until Planet Discover came along a couple of years ago, I wasn’t aware of any niche/local search alternatives. Yet, I thought there was a crying need for such an ability. Even as good is Google is (and it’s way better, for example, on RV-related searches than the 1997-era search engines), it still doesn’t help a person with a passion for a particular interest drill down on that interest on a repeatable basis. As the Web gets bigger, specialized search becomes more important.
And there are more vendors entering that space.
My question is, what took them so long?
Of course, this is bad news for companies filling this vendor space.
And think about the now defunct WaveShift — they were doing hyperlocal before hyperlocal was cool, plus Andy Beal at least saw a glimmer of the coming of specialized search before anybody else. Apparently, not enough newspapers bought their products, though.