Yandex releases social search app, tries to dodge future bullets from Facebook

Russian search engine Yandex released its social search app Wonder today — focused entirely on the U.S. market and interestingly timed with Facebook’s own Graph Search Announcement earlier in the month.

Wonder is an iOS app that anyone can use to ask it questions verbally, in natural language. It uses Nuance’s speech-to-text technology in order to facilitate this feature, though it will also let you type out the question if you’re in a place that is too noisy (or you’re too embarrassed to ask it out loud). The app searches across Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Instagram.

You can ask it questions like “What sandwich shops in New York City do my friends like?” and it will return a list of sandwich shops, with the corresponding names. You can also ask it things like “What news articles have my friends shared?” and it will pull up your friends’ top headlines. Right now, it only supports places, news, and music searches, pulling extra data from sources like Last.fm and Foursquare to give you more data about a place or artist.

The app seems similar to Facebook’s new Graph Search, which doesn’t search any other social networks other than its own. They both focus on discovering things around you through your friends, and the question construction is also very similar.

As TechCrunch notes, the company has provided a legal notice that could head off any aggression from Facebook (such as cutting the company off from its data). Yandex explains that Facebook does not allow anyone to index data for a “search engine or directory.” It argues that Wonder is not a search engine at all, but rather a “personal assistant,” think the iPhone’s Siri.

We have reached out to both Yandex and Facebook and will update upon hearing back.

Wonder image via Yandex


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