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Search Engine for DIYers May Be Too Good to Last

by Mark Frauenfelder
6:30pm  28.Feb.97.PST Will a new search engine "dedicated to serving the DIY community" collapse under the weight of its own potential popularity? "DIY Search shows a lot of promise," says Seth Friedman, editor and publisher of Factsheet Five, the definitive guide to zines, "though, like many DIY projects, its eventual success could mean its eventual doom."

Launched in January, DIY Search provides lists of do-it-yourself projects written up by the authors themselves. Unlike other indices, such as Yahoo!, people who want to get listed on DIY Search do most of the actual work themselves. Registrants enter descriptions of their projects directly into the DIY Search database. They are also issued a code number so that they can update the information about their zine, ezine, band, or art project by themselves, without having to submit a request to a webmaster.

The 24-year-old David Palmer, who created DIY Search with the help of his girlfriend, Tracy Pickle, says DIY Search currently receives 300-400 visitors per day, and that 425 DIYers have registered their projects with the site. He also admits that screening for sites is beginning to be a time-consuming problem.

Friedman says he has seen countless self-published periodicals die after harried publishers become buried under the administrative responsibilities that come with increased readership. "The draining of resources can easily destroy a DIY project," says Friedman, "and a successful Web site is one that gets a bazillion hits. That would kill a Web site like this."

Like Friedman, Chip Rowe, editor of the forthcoming Book of Zines, to be published by Holt, and maintainer of his own online list of ezines, is concerned about DIY Search's rapid growth. "I immediately recognized DIY Search as a site where its owner takes great pride and care," says Rowe, "so it's a place I visit often. I love the fact that Dave and Tracy visit the sites they list. I hate DIYAL (do-it-yourself-and-leave) sites. But the lists are getting too long from the site's quick success and should at least be in alphabetical order!"

But Palmer says his site was designed for easy upkeep and is in no danger of caving in. "I gave this a lot of thought, and programmed it to be easy to manage. The maintenance and system administration, editing, and removal is completely automated."

Seattle-based DJ Turmoil is one such DIYer who has registered his Web site on the service. "So many search engines make it difficult to search for special interests. I think smaller, specific search engines like this are going to become more popular." Turmoil, who provides Web pages for Seattle-area bands at Seattle Music Web, says that many people visiting his site come there from DIY Search.

To offset the costs of the free service, Palmer is selling ads on DIY Search. But because he's concerned that corporate sponsors would exert pressure to change the contents of the site, he says he'll accept advertising only "from sponsors who are DIY. We've already turned down one offer from a magazine, because they're a Ziff-Davis publication. It was hard to say no, because it would have helped [offset expenses]." But whether or not he finds independents willing to buy advertising, Palmer says DIY Search will remain free to browsers and registrants. "We'll never charge - that's the cornerstone of the service."
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