free html hit counter Apple Won't Build a (Web) Search Engine - John Battelle's Search Blog

Apple Won't Build a (Web) Search Engine

By - March 30, 2010

…but it will build the equivalent of an app search engine. It’s crazy not to. In fact, it has to. It already has app discovery via the iTunes store, but it’s terrible, with no signal that gives reliable results based on accrued intent.

What Apple needs is a search engine that “crawls” apps, app content, and app usage data, then surfaces recommendations as well as content . To do this, mobile apps will need to make their content available for Apple to crawl. And why wouldn’t you if you’re Yelp, for example? Or Facebook, for that matter? An index of apps+social signal+app content would be quite compelling.

What Apple will NOT do is crawl the entire web, which is what’s implied by this headline. Apple has already shown a general disdain for the open Internet, anyway, and I don’t see the company spending hundreds of millions of dollars in capital expense to play a game it can’t win anyway.

Google, on the other hand, already has web search well in hand, and most likely will also create an app engine. Unfortunately for us all, the two will most likely not share data. And that is bad for everyone.

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8 thoughts on “Apple Won't Build a (Web) Search Engine

  1. Ok, but why would it be “bad for everyone” that they don’t share data? Sure, universal transparency would be nice, but whose transparency will it be? I.e., what system should we use in the first place? Letting them compete on their merits is a good way to find out, and data is a part of the merit.

    Besides, data sharing is less relevant to Apple (per is current business models at least) than it is to Google.

  2. Stephen says:

    I agree, at least that they should, but I’m wondering if they will or can. Apple is so terrible with data. Look how horrible Spotlight is. And how horrible the current App Search engine is.
    I agree they have such a disdain for the open internet. For instance, I don’t get the same results on the Youtube App, as I do on especially if I am looking up a song. On I usually get the actual recording, on the app, I get some home brewed cover.
    It just feels creepy. That’s why I don’t understand all the euphoria about the iPad.

  3. Isn’t it fairer to compare iTunes search with YouTube search… it’s not that bad in comparison. Which begs the question why have Google never bothered to make YouTube search better!
    Apple would be mad if they weren’t working on better search in apps and an Amazon style ‘people who liked this app also liked…’ would go down a treat.

  4. Steve says:

    There are a few companies in the ecosystem that already have such a search engine, that can crawl the App Store and other mobile touch web content.

    Taptu is one of these. It has built a comprehensive index of all the iPhone apps, all the Android apps, and 200k mobile touch web sites. Anyone can download it free from the App Store, or by going to on their touch screen phone.

    This index is fronted by a pretty capable search engine, as shown by the Taptu user rating scores in the App Store, way ahead of Bing and only a shade behind Google’s own search app.

  5. jimjerky says:

    Not sure why you seem to love the word “crawl”. They don’t need to crawl anything to make a search engine. Sounds like you have a buzzword in your head, John, and you feel like it enhances your writing in some way. It’s not necessary.

  6. Have you seen Appolicious ? It has app search and recommendations based on your social graph, as well as editorial and user reviews and curated app lists for iPhone and Android.

  7. I totally agree its a shame that google and apple can’t share information. The more information that these huge corporations can share the better it will be for the consumer.