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Friday, July 13, 2012

Vertical Discovery Engines

4:27 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal , No comments
The internet is vast. With millions of websites and now hundreds of thousands of apps, there is just too much out there. With so much data and information available on the internet, getting the stuff that you need has been and still is one of the biggest problems of the web. While search engines such as Google and Bing do help us with this discovery problem, they only solve a part of it.
 

The biggest drawback that these search engines have is that they are generic in nature. While these are good at crawling web pages and searching links, they can only do so much. To be more effective these search engines will need to understand domain-specific aspects not just for searching but for consuming as well. This leaves a huge gap to exploit for vertical specific players, not just the existing ones (such as Pandora - and its Music Genome Project - in music, Netflix in movies, and Amazon in books) but new entrants as well. 


Good News For New Players 
While people will always ask new players, "What if Google gets into it?"(to be honest, I think it is a really stupid question to ask in current times), the reality is that it is not easy for a giant such as Google to get into domain specific discovery game. Their technical, infrastructural and cultural baggage does not allow them to change, at least not fast enough. On the other hand,  vertical players can take advantage of their position and help users not just with discovery but close the loop with consumption as well. 
  • Discovery - Vertical players can allow discovery of the entity based on domain specific attributes. For example, in music it can be the song, artists, albums, genres etc. Similarly for deals, it can be location, type, number of people, cost, etc. In addition to that, vertical players are in a much better position to provide answers to search queries, instead of coming back with links to webpages. 
  • Consumption - This is where the vertical players can provide additional value - the cherry on the top - and get far ahead of the generic search players. By providing users to consume the information as well, these players can close the loop. Taking our discovery examples again, in case of music, such engines can allow for listening to songs and downloading them; and for deals, these can allow users to purchase them. 

We can already see growth of vertical discovery engines such as Indeed.com and Kayak.com. While these currently focus on discovery, I will not be surprised if they start closing the loop at their end as well. In fact, Indeed.com has already started doing that by allowing users to not just search jobs but apply for some of them as well. While this certainly does not mean that general search players will fade away, it sure does mean that with growing pool of information and assets on the internet, we will see growth of more vertical engines, that will not just help users with discovery but with consumption as well.

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