Review: Specialized search engines fit the niche

For when the Google net spreads too wide

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GlobalSpec's B2B engineering search engine

GlobalSpec offers search tailored to the needs of engineers and manufacturers, providing search functionality for both OEM and distributor product catalogs as well as the Web. It offers a choice of browsable categories or a search entry box.

Browsable content is divided into two categories ("Products & Suppliers" and "Services & Consultants"), each of which is further broken down into subcategories, and from there into even more specific subcategories and finally into search results. The ultimate results for "Products & Suppliers" is a list of company names and locations that link to Company Profiles on the GlobalSpec site. Browsing "Services & Consultants" offers the same thing, plus the ability to compare certain "selected" companies and even request a quote.

GlobalSpec lets you browse and drill down to find the info you need.
GlobalSpec lets you browse and drill down to find the info you need. (Click image to see larger view.)

The search results page offers a series of tabs to help target types of results: The Engineering Web, Products & Services, Part Number Search, Engineering News, Application Notes, Material Properties, Patents and finally Standards. Many of these tabs will return results that are hosted on GlobalSpec's partner sites.

For example, results under the Patent tab offer an abstract of applicable patents and a link to go to to purchase the entire document. Part Number Search lists link to And so on. This wouldn't normally be a problem, but both GlobalSpec and several of the partner sites require individual registration. The whole experience would be a lot more user-friendly if they could offer a unified registration system. Having to log in at each site makes me wonder why I didn't go directly to the partner site to begin with.

Searching for a specific part number at GlobalSpec.
Searching for a specific part number at GlobalSpec. (Click image to see larger view.)

Setting aside that one caveat, GlobalSpec is a worthy destination site if your profession requires you to spec out parts or research technical/engineering data. The "Engineering News" tab even offers a news feed of relative stories gathered from the Web -- a bit of light reading for your downtime. The target demographic for GlobalSpec is pretty specific, and it won't be of much interest to casual Web surfers, but for those people in the right demographic, having all this data in one place is going to make their jobs a whole lot easier.

A search for everyone

As the Web continues to grow in leaps and bounds, new companies and technologies spring up to help us find what we need when we need it. There are lots of specialized search engines out there, and more are being launched all the time. Hopefully these examples will illustrate how a specifically formatted results from a controlled set of data can help you make sense of the Web.

If you want to investigate further, here are some other specialized sites:

  • Kaboodle is one part shopping search engine and one part social networking site.
  • Krillion is another shopping search engine that's supposed to find the best local price on name brand items. It's still quite limited -- you can only search televisions and major appliances for now.
  • Eventful is a search item to help you find local events.
  • FindLaw is a legal resources search engine.

If you have a favorite specialized search engine, we invite you to leave a comment telling us about it.

Peter Smith is a Web developer and freelance writer with a special interest in personal technology and digital entertainment.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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