Barry Graubart, VP of Product Management for Alacra walked me through their new Alacra Compliance vertical search product today. Alacra Compliance focuses on key content from about 500 web sites of interest to compliance officers at major institutions along with content from its collection of subscription databases. Subscribers to the premium version of Alacra Compliance get a federated search capability with parameterized search options that returns results from individual sources together in one list. Users can annotate individual documents and then collate both notes and the original documents into a report format using the AlacraBook aggregation tool. For users on the open Web there's a free trial version of Alacra Compliance that uses a Google Search Appliance to cruise the Web sources in the product - no extra features or source-specific sorting, but a heck of a lot more focused results for compliance specialists trying to scan the best sources on the open Web.
Alacra Compliance is a great example of a federated search application that started with the needs of a very specific community and built a service around them - rather than throwing up a general taxonomy and then searching for what an audience really needed in a "shopping mall" approach to various vertical sectors. Online sources are filtered not just at the site level but at the level at which a specific source can provide value - for example, banking sites may have only certain types of content that are important for compliance officers so only the relevant documents are in the crawl. Functions for the premium service are based heavily on the core Alacra offering but with the tailored sources they gain appeal to a very focused group of users within Alacra's base of corporate and finance clients.
Best of all there's no artificial segregation of Web sources and subscription sources in the premium product: they're available in one aggregated display for people to judge for themselves what they need. This is what today's enterprise audiences expect - what they need from wherever it comes from in a highly usable form. There's more that could be added to flesh out this product but as a "day one" offering it's right on target and a good example of how a reasonably limited amount of new development can satisfy the needs of specific business audiences very effectively.