I’ve been playing with Google’s Custom Search engine lately. In short, it lets you build custom search engines around a given topic. You can create your own search engine around toys, HDTV, restaurants, travel Web site — whatever interests you. It’s not a new idea; Rollyo and Eurekster have been doing similar things for a while. What makes this significant is that Google is doing it and the combination of the Google index, customization tools and monetization.
In about 10 minutes, I was able to create my own search engine about the search industry. It searches a number of blogs including Search Engine Watch, Kedrosky, Battelle and Zawodny.
Google makes it easy to create and customize the engine using a series of Web forms. I entered a list of sites I wanted to search, picked a name and filled in a few other fields. You can customize it further with an AJAX interface. You also get a cut of the ad revenue generated by the search engine.
You can also invite others to contribute to your search engine. I can see a lot of applications for group research projects. It also has the potential to throw buckets of ice water on any startup looking to pitch a vertical search engine to VCs.
One thing I would love to see is alerts on the custom search engine — when one of the sites I watch writes about a topic I’m interested in, I’d get an alert.