Apple’s new App store that launched today on iTunes is the hot topic. A browse through the 554 apps reveals a whopping 154 mobile search tools and counting! They range from AskPeter.Info Mobile Search (an Answers-like service from Germany’s P & T Software Development) to zabihah (a search tool from Halalfire Media LLC that allows users to find and map restaurants in their area that conform to Halal Muslim dietary code standards).
Tools are on offer that can help you find a lawyer in the U.S., pick a perfect property in the Czech Republic and even browse for books and eBooks in University Library Graz, Austria. And the list goes on… (You can check them out here.)
Indeed, the Long Tail of vertical search engines that I have tracked and profiled from the start on MSG and now on AltSearchEngines (ASE), has arrived. In fact, Charles Knight, my friend and colleague at ASE, reckons I’ll have a full-time job just profiling the made-for-mobile search services on offer for our sites. And that’s not including the scores of online Alts (alternative search engines) – such as Powerset, Summize, Earthcomber and Sputtr - that have developed a mobile service.
To start off, let’s take a closer look at midomi mobile from search and sound recognition company Melodis Corporation.
In a nutshell, the search app lets users to find songs and artists by singing, humming, speaking, typing or playing original music sources into their iPhones. Once a user discovers a piece of music, midomi mobile leverages the iPhone’s interface to provide one-click access to iTunes and YouTube, where users can purchase the music or watch related videos. In addition, midomi mobile gives users one-stop access to a wide range of music-related content, including photographs, biographies and complete discographies of their favorite artists or bands.
The music search is sits at the core of a music sharing social network, but more about this after I have had a briefing tomorrow (yes, Saturday) with Melodis CEO Keyvan Mohajer. Thanks again to Donna Candelori at Candelori Communications for setting this up on such short notice!
Another search service that caught my attention (partly because it’s already one of the top apps in the Apple store) is Wayfinder Power Search from Sweden’s Wayfinder. The technology – which I’ll call local search on steroids – lets users search across a multitude of databases (White Pages, Yellow Pages, etc…) through a single unified search box.
How it works
· Fill in the “what?” (e.g. persons, cafés, stores, clubs, monuments) and “where?”.
· Choose the right geographical region and category for better filtering.
· Click on “Search”.
· Click on the relevant search result to see contact details, web addresses, and locations on the built-in iPhone Maps.
It sounds like a federated local search offer, but I asked Wayfinder’s VP Marketing Dan Haneklint, and he assures me that it aggregates results but does not federate them. He also assures me that a briefing is imminent, so I’ll circle back with more details later in the month. I especially look forward to learning more about the Wayfinder offer as it is powered by its own patent-pending mobile search technology. There is also integration with Wayfinder LocateMate, allowing users to publish the locations they find on their Facebook account.
If you are an Alt, then I encourage you to reach out to me directly for a briefing or email my PA Andrea Henninge (firstname.lastname@example.org). As the mobile expert for ASE (Charles’ words – not mine), it’s my mission to identify and profile all Alts over time. I’ve already wrapped up some excellent briefings and podcasts with Kannuu, Ziva, Skweezer and Wichro, so please check back regularly.
The App store exposes us to a new crop of search tools, and that’s exciting. But – more importantly – it’s a clear indication of the pivotal role mobile search will play in our personal mobile experiences as both a navigational tool and a way to discover cool stuff, and that’s profound.
The App store assortment of search tools is also a testament to the paramount importance of choice and the profound impact Yahoo BOSS – a web services platform that allows developers and companies to create and launch web-scale search products by utilizing the same technology that powers Yahoo Search – will likely have on the mobile space. Granted, the current focus is on online, but cross-pollination from online to mobile search is assured. I miss a discussion on this, so I’ll start one here.
The Apps store doesn’t have it all, but it does whet our appetites for new verticals that go far beyond plain-vanilla (universal) mobile search. I would further suggest that the form factor shortcomings of the mobile device, and the abundance of mobile content, will make search a must-have feature of every mobile site – period.
Against, this backdrop, I expect many mobile content sites will line up to tap into BOSS to make their content searchable, findable and monetizable. (Smart content companies may even borrow a page from my favorite business model and, like Schibsted, offer mobile search as a service to extend their reach to other sites and ultimately morph into super-portal destinations in the process.)
To be clear, many content companies are already doing precisely this with the help of white-label mobile search solutions and/or platforms from the likes of JumpTap, MCN, Medio and Motricity. However, the buzz around BOSS will likely make more content companies aware of their options and encourage them to emphasize mobile search in their modus operandi. (Makes business sense – users can’t buy what they cannot find, and companies cannot monetize inventory that isn’t indexed.)
BOSS also opens the door to a new flood of innovation in mobile search and could catapult start-ups in super-cool areas such as semantic search and social search a huge step forward. Yahoo’s blog reports that several start-ups including Hakia, a semantic search start-up MSG profiled here, are using BOSS to access the Yahoo Search index. Hakia has managed to “dramatically increase the speed with which it can semantically analyze the web.”
Vendor spin aside, BOSS potentially provides important infrastructure that can lead to better search experiences – which in turn can lead to more searches – and ultimately end in a virtuous cycle for all the players involved. (Admittedly, as this ReadWriteWeb post points out, BOSS isn’t entirely open, and some “crown jewels” such as the company’s plans to rewire for social graph and data portability paradigms are parts of “other programs.” Nonetheless, Yahoo obviously understands Wikinomics and knows building an open platform is the first step to long-term sustainability. It will be a tough act to follow.)
In the mobile space, where we lack both a business ecosystem and an entity to orchestrate one, Yahoo’s new openness could give it a clear competitive advantage.