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The Evolving Search Interface: Mobile Drives Search As App

By - January 15, 2010

Screen shot 2010-01-15 at 11.10.13 AM.png

I’ve said before that search interfaces, stuck in the command line interface of DOS, will at some point evolve into applications on top of a commodity search index. I further opined that Bing, in particular Bing’s limited but compelling visual search, was just such an example: search as an interactive, rich application, as opposed to search as a list of results.  

The commodity of search results is critical, but as we shift our usage to the mobile web, the use case for a list of results weakens. Instead, as this Bizweek article points out, we’re using apps. On their face, these apps don’t seem like search at all. Except they are.

Take the popular iPhone app Exit Strategy, for example (at left). The app helps folks navigate the NY transit system. In essence, it consolidates a subset of search queries and answers them with a combination of domain-specific structured results and an elegant user interface. The structured dataset is the NY transit map and schedule, the UI is based on the iPhone’s unique ecosystem of interface. The result: No one with this app is Googling “best route Bronx Midtown“. Instead, there’s an app for that.

Google can’t help but see this as a threat. For nearly every structured set of results, there’ll be an app for that, if there isn’t already. To my mind, the question becomes one of using search to find the best apps. I wonder how Google is surfacing iPhone apps as answers to questions pertinent to destroying its own query volume? For it seems to me that a very good result for the query above, if done on Google over an iPhone, would be “Exit Strategy.”

Huh. Yet another reason to lean into Android, no doubt.

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4 thoughts on “The Evolving Search Interface: Mobile Drives Search As App

  1. thepolishrocket says:

    It’s just like when the web was taking off and everyone and their mother had a website. Then search engines like Alta Vista and Google came along, helping cut through the clutter and find the most relevant site(s). If mobile apps are the equivalent of websites, and given the rapid growth of mobile apps, what is equivalent search engine?

  2. It’s not so much the map, it’s the usefulness and relevance of the map. The better apps are the ones that help you find the best route. That’s sort of the minimum expectation of maps these days. But like a good GPS system, we want a map that also looks down the road and helps us avoid traffic. It’s that real-time feedback to the system that will be the ongoing feature that gets us to choose one app over the other.


  3. Person says:

    I actually agree with your article
    and have bought the app for my iphone


  4. This is a great list. thanks for sharing.