Pundits are pointing out loudly that the new Google Custom Search Engine is hardly the first custom search tool on the block: Alexa Web Search Platform is a full-featured platform for mashup experts wanting to cull through Web sites and easy customization options are available from Rollyo and other sites. But there is something about the Google view of search that provides features that result in a service that is both highly usable and very flexible and adaptable in ways that leave earlier efforts on the sidelines.
Setting up a custom search on GCSE is very easy through a series of entry panels that allows one to specify sites for a crawl and whether they should be searched alone or with results from other Web sites blended in. The results are published as a search engine that uses Google Coop as its underpinnings and that can be accessed as a destination page from Google or integrated into another site - as has been done with this custom search engine for Macworld. Searches can be used to build an RSS feed, of course, providing a steady stream of highly filtered updates.
What's beautiful about GCSE is that it makes it bone-simple to develop your own content aggregation schemes via search and to share them with others. Just as the categorization schemes of Google Coop encourage publishers to provide browsing filters for content to facilitate navigation the GCSE search capability organizes Web content into unique aggregation services that in some ways can be more powerful than traditional licensed database services in which Web content and cherry-picked sites are segregated oftentimes. Instead of search results being transitory services they can become public content destinations providing instant editorial filtering guided by subject matter experts - with Google's ads along for the ride to help monetize the results, natch.
Where other tools of this type are either over-simplistic or over-technical Google Custom Search Engine provides powerful content publishing tools that can service both the casual user and power users very effectively using the world's leading Web search technologies. Expect this to be a very powerful and popular publishing option for publishers of all kinds seeking new ways to create valuable inventories of destination content.