Since the advent of the internet, search engines have formed a major part of how we interact online with people and businesses. However, with the arrival of the smartphone and the mobile app, things are starting to change somewhat. Tom Simonite (2014) of the MIT Technology Review explains that people are now spending a lot more time in mobile applications and a lot less time on the World Wide Web. This has led to a problem, which is that mobile applications are highly convenient but are not visible to search engines. That is about to change.
Tom Simonite explains that a new search engine is being developed for the era of apps. As he describes it, the idea is that it will be:
“A new kind of search engine [that will] make it possible to search inside the apps on your phone”.
This is an intriguing idea, and it is being progressed by a company called Quixey. The company is, according to Simonite, working on an innovation to search engines to create a search engine that can look inside applications to find information. Allegedly the company is putting its 150 employees along with $74 million of investment to this purpose. For a moment you might think, well what is the point of that, really? But there is a lot of point. An example provided by Simonite is the ability to search within apps for information on the best Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, London, or to find a taxi number within different apps.
The following video explains how quixey functions:
In fact, Simonite explains that the first prototype that was developed did indeed focus on the ability to search for places to eat and drink. It used review apps such as Yelp and Urbanspoon, as well as providing links to apps like OpenTable to help people to be able to reserve a table at the same time. Perhaps one of the most interesting facets of this development is that the search engine works even on apps that are not installed on a person’s telephone. The problem that this solves is that people no longer have to go into a variety of different apps on their smartphone to find the information that they are looking for. Rather, they can use the new search engine to do this job for them.
As Simonite explains, the way that the search engine works is different from existing web-based search engines. Web search engines operate by creating an index of information based on data gleaned from visiting all of the different web pages. It is pointed out that the Quixey approach is different because it uses “deep links”. These are a type of hyperlink that go to a particular place in a mobile app. Deep links have the ability to link to a specific product or song. This has previously been used for advertising purposes, but Simonite outlines how it is Quixey’s belief that deep links can be used for much more than that, to aid users in finding what they need. One of the major challenges with this approach however, is that deep links are not necessarily used everywhere at the current time. Where deep links do not currently exist this can create challenges for the Quixey search engine to be able to return all of the different possible options that the user could potentially access. However, the organisation is confident that this is likely to change relatively quickly, as deep links have other uses than the Quixey search engine that is being developed.
As Simonite explains, being able to get to features that are held inside mobile applications by using a search box could have a significant impact on how people use and interact with their mobile devices. It could have a significant impact on how people use and interact with the internet as well, since many people might be less likely to use an internet search engine, leading to a profound change in the industry that would affect advertising tremendously. Clearly this change that at first might seem relatively unimportant or insignificant is actually quite ground breaking in nature.
Only time will tell what will happen with this development and whether it will take off, but it seems very likely that it will.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.