“Discovery” is one of the most common complaints about the ever-growing number of smartphone apps: With hundreds of thousands of apps, how can people find the best one for whatever they’re looking for? Now Yahoo is making an effort to solve the problem, both on your computer with a new Yahoo App Search service, and on iPhones and Android devices with a new Yahoo AppSpot app.
Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s senior vice president of search and marketplaces, compared the current state of the app world to the early days of the Web, before Yahoo’s founders made navigation easier with their listings and search engine. In fact, he said that people are already using Yahoo Search as a way to find apps. So, as part of the company’s broader mission to provide “answers, not links” (a common claim among search engines), Yahoo tried to provide more information for people searching for apps.
Now, when you search for an app by name or type, instead of just offering a link to a listing in an app store, Yahoo now points people to a Yahoo profile page about the app, including reviews, an overall star rating, screenshots, and pricing. If you decide that you want to try the app, you can scan the QR code on the profile with your device, or Yahoo can send a text message to your phone with a link to the store. Yahoo also points to related apps and, if you’ve downloaded the AppSpot app, it provides daily app recommendations, personalized based on factors like what apps you’ve already downloaded to your phone.
To a certain extent, it sounds like Yahoo is just duplicating the kinds of information that you can already find in the app stores. But Seth argued that the company can provide some unique benefits to users.
For one thing, he said that the search results themselves are significantly better than what you’d find by searching in either of the app stores. The personalized recommendation engine is also unique, he said, in part because the results are constantly changing based on what’s trending in Yahoo itself, making them fresher than the relatively static app store rankings. Last, he said that Yahoo’s listings can help you learn about an app and then download it on all your devices, rather than navigating multiple app stores to find the same app.
“I think this is a very fresh and different approach that nobody has taken before,” he said.
Yahoo plans to expand to other devices and app store eventually, Seth said. He demonstrated both the Web and mobile experiences for me, but I haven’t had a chance to try them out for myself. Still, the simple fact that Yahoo is trying new things like App Search and Search Direct is kind of encouraging, in and of itself.