Ex-Googler start-ups are coming out of the woodworks. And now there's one more.
Steffen Mueller, an ex-Google product manager from Munich, Germany, has launched his own version of Web search with a dash of the social. Mueller and a few friends from Germany started Topicle, which launched in beta on Monday.
The site lets anyone create or edit their own search engine on any topic--recipes, mortgage news, New York City or even peanut butter. People create a search topic and then choose the Web addresses from which Topicle will search. (Topicle uses Google search APIs to produce its search results.) People can search from one of the preexisting topic search engines, build their own, or rate the domains within an existing topic.
Of course, vertical search engines are nothing new. Sites like Rollyo have been trying to simplify domain-specific search for years; and the major search engines offer similar services for tech-savvy people. Google, for example, runs Google Coop, a service that helps people create a specialized search engine for their Web site. But these services largely haven't gotten off the ground yet.
Mueller said the human element will ultimately improve search, similar to Wikipedia's effect on encyclopedia listings.
"Topicle generates more precise and useful search results with sources recommended by humans, as opposed to sources picked solely by a computer algorithm," said Mueller, who joined Google in early 2004 and worked on various projects including Google Maps and Froogle.
Mueller said Topicle is the first product of his company Zoolium. He did not detail how the company plans to make money. Zoolium is privately funded with $200,000 of Mueller's money.