A couple years ago, Steve Jobs drew a line in the sand between mobile apps and search. “On a mobile device,” he declared, “search hasn’t happened. Search is not where it’s at. People aren’t searching on a mobile device like they do on the desktop. What is happening is they are spending all of their time in apps.” Up until now, the divide has remained. You can either search the mobile web or you can search inside narrow apps. But today with the launch of Do@ at Disrupt NYC, you can do both.
Do@, which is an iPhone app available today, is a new kind of mobile search engine. It doesn’t search the web. It searches apps. Lots of them. Instead of search results presented as ten blue links, they are presented as fully-functioning, relevant screens from iPhone apps. So if you search for the movie The Godfather, Do@ will allow you to swipe through screens from Flixster, IMDB, Netflix, and Fandango, all showing their results for when somebody searches for that movie in those iPhone apps. A search for “sushi” will turn up results from Yelp, Foodspotting, and Foursquare. A shopping search might turn up Amazon, eBay, and Shopping.com.
Instead of having to open up a thousand different apps depending on what you want to do, Do@ allows you to do a general search, and then brings up the appropriate app as the answer. What’s more, it can do this whether or not you have those apps already installed on your iPhone. Do@ is actually serving up HTML5 apps in a browser. You can think of it as a bunch of mobile vertical search engines all in one. It brings up different apps for shopping searches than it does for movie, music, or food searches. In this way, it also serves a sa great way to discover and experience new apps without downloading them first.
Instead of crawling the Web to come up with the best answers for a search, it relies on app publishers to answer the questions as if someone were searching inside their apps. The order in which apps are presented can be rearranged base don your preference, and is also influenced by the apps your friends use in various social networks.
Do@ is an Israeli-based startup founded by Rami Kasterstein, Ami Ben-David, and Joey Simhon. It’s raised $8.6 million, including a recent $7 million round by Draper Fisher Jurvetson.
Judges Q&A (notes)
Barney Pell, Bing: I really like the user experience. I like that you are launching deep into the web pages and the scrolling is nice. It all comes down to search quality. How are you measuring your results?
Ami Ben-David: Social radar is built into the results. If I put a mark on The Guardian app, that is quality for me. It is a social system that measures quality
Barney: How are you objectively testing?
Ami: We are trying to stay away from making these decisions. We think the best results are through competition.
Hilary Mason, bit.ly: I have a smartphone, I never think what if I had a meta app to find other apps. How do you convince people to even start using it?
Ami: You can share there is a share button. Second, we are very publisher friendly, it works with their existing business model. Third thing is the team, a great team with a lot of experience
Bradley Horowitz, Google: One thing that is hard about a mobile interface is that it is hard to scan the results. You have to flip through, so the rich get richer. My question is are you going to have business model, or do you consider that passé
Ami: This a search engine, there is a business model built into that. These are the same apps that give you the best results.
Barney: So the real issue is that every single publisher thinks they have the best app, but I as a user don’t necessarily agree. How do you decide who is right? That the one you are delivering to users is actually good?
Ami: If you go to Google, you get a list of names, then you click and go back. On our system, you swipe. You actually see the result so you can make a conscious decision. It is the fastest way to results, not the fastest way to a link.
Michael Wolf, ACTVATE: The user interface is so interesting, in the apps world it is very hard for apps discovery, but how do you get past the cynical user who feels like they you are directing me to an app I have not bought, that you are spamming me with apps?
Ami: I think that the consequences for spamming will be quick. And you do not have to have the apps downloaded on your phone. This is one interface across al the apps that is HTML5