It’s almost funny: between iOS, Android, and the Mac App Store, we’ve entered the age of the App, where standalone programs often specialize in doing a handful of things very well. There’s an app for looking up baseball schedules, an app for finding the nearest gas station, and so on (you’ve seen the commercials). But despite the increasing ubiquity of these handy Apps, actually finding what you’re looking for can be incredibly difficult, because search tends to be really, really bad across the most popular platforms.
Enter Quixey. The startup, which is still in private beta, has been built from the ground up to specialize in app search. And instead of searching for an application’s name (which is sort of difficult if you have no idea what to look for), Quixey lets you search by what you’re trying to do. The company has raised a $400K seed round led by Innovation Endeavors — which is outgoing Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s investment firm — with participation from Archimedes Ventures. Yep, Schmidt’s firm is investing in a search engine.
Quixey’s search engine lets you type in a query, like “Crop photos”, and get a list of applications that should fit the bill — which you can filter by platform. And it doesn’t just support iOS and Android. Quixey also has support for browser extensions, Windows and Mac apps, iGoogle, and more.
Of course, there are already plenty of other search engines that can search for apps. But many of these, like Apple’s App Store, rely on the titles and descriptions submitted by developers. Quixey draws from a variety of sources as it attempts to determine what each application can be used for, including blog posts that have been written about the app, user reviews, and more. The company isn’t talking too much about these data sources, explaining that it’s part of their special sauce.
The service is still in private beta so it’s a bit early to judge it on accuracy, but I ran a few test queries and the results showed promise. The top match for my query for “crop photos” in Android Apps was something called “Crop Image Tester” — which says it’s “for developer purposes”. But the third hit, called ”Share Image” was right on the mark, promising to resize, rotate, and crop images.
I had less luck looking for an iPad application that would let me highlight or annotate documents (the word “highlight” returns no results). But, again, there’s still time for Quixey to hone their algorithms before launch.
One other thing to note. Quixey sounds similar in some ways to Chomp (an app-focused search engine), Appsfire, and other app directories. But Quixey has another trick up its sleeve: it can power search for other applications and websites, in much the same way that Google Custom Search does. In fact, they go as far to say, “We’re not competing with Chomp.”