Rafe Needleman writes:
If you want to find a specialized electronic component for your engineering project, you can search the Web for it, but that can be a frustrating experience. While almost all component manufacturers put their catalogs online, they don’t do it in a consistent, data-driven way that helps people looking for parts, much less looking to compare them between manufacturers. While the data is all on the Web, it often doesn’t seem like it, since it is so hard to find.
So GlobalSpec has created a system that collects information about parts from 10,000 catalogs that list about 50 million different parts and services, from transistors to air compressors to contract machine shop services. GlobalSpec president John Schneider thinks that of all the parts an engineer could order for a project, he has about 20% accounted for in his system.
Compared to Froogle or a site like NexTag, GlobalSpec’s difference is the granularity of its data. Compared to Ariba, GlobalSpec is less ambitiousit’s just a catalog aggregator. But that may be just what engineers need. If you’re looking for a control valve, you can specify the range of maximum flow it has to handle (in your choice of 15 units of measurement), as well as precisely what centering mechanism (spring centered, spring offset, etc.) you’re looking for.
It is, in other words, a fairly typical online publishing enterprise, combined with some well-understood search engine economics. But I find it interesting because lately I’ve been seeing more and more specialized search tools and catalogs.
Despite the many advances in Web searching, and in the protocols and standards that make it easier to publish information on the Internet, there seems to be a growing need for specialized directories to make sense of all this information.
Specialty (vertical) search engines look like the next niche.