A couple of days ago I met with Simply Hired. Beyond some interesting things that they were telling me about their roadmap, I was fascinated by the "vertical"’ vs. "horizontal" search discussion we had.
My personal belief is that the more verticals there are, the more people will "default" to general search engines because they’re overwhelmed and confused. However, there are lots and lots of interesting things going on in "vertical search" or verticals where search is the primary navigation tool.
Simply Hired is a "metasearch" engine for jobs (job search is inherently local), but on top of search results the company is building lots and lots of added value. In other words, aggregating the listings from multiple providers (including the big three) is just the beginning.
Look at this result for "marketing" + "new york." Beyond the filtering of results by selected criteria (e.g., location, education level, company size, etc.), one can save jobs, rate jobs, map jobs, virally e-mail jobs, do salary research and, perhaps most significantly, network via linked-in (find contacts who work or have worked at the company).
All these additional job-specific services illustrate the value verticals can bring to the user experience that is hard for general search engines to duplicate for many reasons.
As I’ve remarked before, we’re seeing the development of an "ecosystem" in which the general/horizontal search engines are where many "verticals" are discovered by consumers and in the subsequent exploration or drill down within the vertical is where the potentially best hand-off is to the advertiser (or at least this is the vertical argument. But this is seemingly proven in IYP contexts; IYPs aren’t a "vertical" per se, but see below.)
In this "vertical environment" is also where you’re likely to find the bulk of local businesses going forward, for many reasons. (This applies to newspapers and Yellow Pages sites as well, which are obviously not "verticals" but stand in the same relation as verticals to general Web search in the broader structure of the ecosystem.)