This morning AOL is online with a mobile web search beta. AOL has offered some mobile services (for example, AOL Instant Messenger, mail, news, etc.) for years and has been testing new features since April. Here's a rundown on what's new on the web search front.
The new mobile web search tool automatically "transcodes" or rewrites non-mobile pages into ones that are friendly mobile phones and devices. Google and Yahoo also offer this feature. AOL's transcoding technology comes from InfoGin, an Israeli company.
Be aware that you'll hit a smaller database than with regular search results, as highlighted in this quote from a MediaPost story on the launch:
AOL Mobile Search additionally will filter results to provide a smaller number of hits for users on the go. "When we looked around at the way that search had been offered so far...one problem was that when you decided to search for something, you could always get back millions of hits, which is certainly difficult to go through on your phone," [Ken] Thomas [the senior project manager for AOL Mobile] said.
Fair to say, it's difficult to go through millions of results even if you aren't on a mobile search device. In fact, most search engines only let you actually browse through 1,000 results, at most.
Should you be worried about not hitting the full database. Almost certainly not. Typically search engines have had the ability to hit more "popular" pages, and that will likely work just fine for the needs of mobile users.
How's it look? You can check it out even if you don't have mobile web access? You can view the site on a regular browser here and see a mobile search results page here.
I ran a mobile "web" search for "Search Engine Watch" and spotted paid listings at the top of all web search results page. Presently, neither Yahoo nor Google show paid listings on mobile search results pages. By the way, clicking on a paid listing takes you to a optimized version of the advertisers site.
Web results pages also include product listings. For example, my "Search Engine Watch" search include three non-relevant (Thomas the Tank?) product listings.
Aside from web search, the new AOL Mobile Search site also allows the user to access listings from AOL PinPoint Shopping and AOL Yellow Pages. AOL Yellow Pages for Mobile listings include maps and directions from Mapquest.
Bottom Line? Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of features or services. What is unordinary is seeing paid listings on mobile web search results pages.