Death to Shopping Search Sites (& Vertical Search Too)!

I look at things like Overstimulated’s great “book burro” greasemonkey script and I increasingly find myself thinking, “Death to shopping search sites (and wrong-headed vertical search too)!” Book burro is a wonderful example of how people are are completely missing the fundamental changes in search.
First, while I have admittedly hyped vertical search and it is potentially useful, people keep missing that unlike Google-style search it must be context-driven. People are not going to bookmark and use twenty different domain-specific search engines, no matter how well done. People will fold, spindle, and mutilate Google into doing the job — unless you give them search in context. A la Blinkx, for example, a good vertical search tool will recognize a task requiring information while you are working, and then it will provide that information in passing — call it drive-by search.
And that is where book burro is instructive. Rather than forcing people to go to a shopping search site to find multiple sources for a product, it implicitly embeds that in Amazon by bringing back competitive prices via XML-HTTP. Put differently, it recognizes that people are looking for a book, not shopping for prices, and they have a default shopping site. In that context it gives you enough information to decide whether you would like to change your purchase location on a per-transaction basis.
Imagine most vertical search sites reconstituted in the same way, feeding you information as required by the context in which you are currently operating. Say you start scanning a CV it might do a background Zoominfo search and ask you whether you would like due diligence information on the candidate; do a product search and you get a book burro-style price list. The mind begins to boggle when you rethink vertical search as immersive client-centric context, rather than simply being yet another bookmark in an already cluttered world of search.


  1. …”feeding you information as required by the context in which you are currently operating”. I use bookmarking services in a similar fashion. Would you consider that search?

  2. Yes, kind of. I think search is about obtaining information for people in directed or semi-directed fashion. The mistake is to imagine it always requires a context switch, let alone wandering off to some search site.

  3. With the trend towards offering search results as RSS, users have both the GreaseMonkey choice and the choice. OpenSearch at a9 shows that nicely. How does that not accomplish the same thing?

  4. A9 and Greasemonkey/bookburro are very different things. One is an integrator for various kind of information, while the other is a tool for creating in-context platforms for script execution. The idea of embedding an application in my current (and transient) context is very powerful.