Ask.com and Quixey, "the search engine for apps" have announced a deal which aims to bridge the gap between the app economy and the web. Through a deep integration between the two companies, Ask.com now displays apps in the natural search results for any app-specific search.
The integration will also feature an "apps" search vertical for anyone to search exclusively for apps on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry. The long term vision between the two companies is that apps can be a viable and more appropriate solution to both traditional long form search queries and question based search terms.
Bridging the Web and App Economy
While every search engine is trying to go beyond the "10 blue links" type of result sets, Ask.com's vision is to become a portal for exploratory experiences where users don't just ask questions and get answers, but also discover new information that piques their interest.
The Quixey integration allows Ask.com to become an efficient gateway to some of the world's most engaging digital content as users will be able to click to the appropriate app stores directly from the search results.
"Q&A sites must deliver content-rich experiences to engage users at scale, which is why a diverse mix of quality content is key to Ask's strategy," said Shane McGilloway, chief operations officer, Ask.com. "Apps are gateways to some of the most top-notch digital content out there, so this integration fits perfectly with where our product is headed, especially when it comes to mobile devices."
Quixey's integration into the Ask looks extremely clean. Generic searches such as "racing game" will trigger app results as will more specific app requests such as "best iPhone games for kids," "apps to track my run," and "cooking apps for the holidays."
As you can see in the screenshot above, app results list the platform they are available on and these link directly to the relevant app store. You can also filter by platform, device and whether the apps are free or paid.
Within the app vertical on Ask.com, popular (rather than related) app suggestions also appear in the right hand column, as shown below.
Users can also pull up more detailed information about an app much like in the app stores on most devices.
Boosting App Discovery
CEO of Quixey, Tomer Kagan believes that web search is moving beyond an ecosystem of text, images and links into an even richer "programmable web" of software. His belief is that just as the industry has taken many steps to make document and media types such as PDFs and video more indexable and findable on the web, so software can also be a relevant and valuable result type for users, even if that user is not specifying it.
The plan for Quixey's integration with Ask.com is that the natural algorithm will start out only responding to search queries requesting apps or clear app related categories of search terms, but over the next 12 months will inject more app results into generic search terms. The goal is to gradually broaden the base of queries and keyword intelligence in which this new media type is identified as a worthwhile answer, content lead or end result for users.
Part of Quixey's algorithmic 'secret sauce' is to calculate app relevance based on more off page factors than the current app store providers do. For example, rather than simply counting links to app stores from the web, in order to calculate popularityor relevance, Quixey actually identifies mentions across the web and social media.
Kagan calls this ranking concept "functional search" and one could almost say it bears a similarity to Google's PageRank except it works in reverse. Instead of using web signals (links, text, rich data formats) to calculate the value of an unknown entity (web pages and content), Quixey is using those same web signals to calculate the value of a small stock of known entities (namely all the apps that exist).
For Quixey, this partnership with Ask.com provides a tremendous opportunity to test the core concepts of it's app discovery algorithm on hundreds of millions of users and, in turn, make app discovery really work on the web. In fact, Kagan's unabashedly quixotic tenets for what app search means to the web lives up to the company name.