Tel Aviv-based do@ (pronounced “do at”) probably won’t get you to stop using Google on your smartphone (iPhone exclusively right now) but it’s an intriguing new mobile “search engine” that takes a very different approach to delivering content on the go.
The company, which also announced $7 million in new funding, doesn’t index pages. Instead it shows live sites or apps that have been optimized for mobile presentation. It’s similar to Google’s preview functionality for mobile but all the pages on do@ are live and not cached.
Rather than index thousands or millions of results, do@ presents a relatively small number of sites for each category. Sites are ranked initially by default but later those rankings change if you’re signed in to Facebook and/or you “favorite” particular sites. You can create a kind of personal ranking of sites by using the “heart” button associated with each page.
In some ways I’m reminded of the old Taptu, with its horizontal scrolling screen caps, before it became a newsreader. I’m also reminded of Blekko in some ways; do@’s “@ tags” help disambiguate queries by category to get quickly to results.
Founder Ami Ben-David told me earlier that “short queries are better than long ones.” And in many instances do@ can get you to a mobile result faster than Google can; it eliminates the step of clicking on links. You horizontally scroll through sites and pick the one you want. Do@ doesn’t operate as an “intermediary” between publishers or brands as Google does; users see the full branded presentation of content and then select sites accordingly.
There’s much more content indexed in Google and I’m guessing on really obscure or long tail queries Google will be more successful. But in most mobile use cases, users don’t need millions of links. They’re looking for a quick answer to a question: what time is the movie?, where is the restaurant? and so on.
I found there’s a bit of a learning curve with do@. Google has conditioned people to search in certain ways (e.g., movies + zip code) and do@ didn’t handle that type of query well (although Ami Ben-David assured me that would be “fixed”). However if you search with one or two words and then click the category link the outcomes are generally good.
Do@ is a very effective way to get to certain types of content efficiently without the need to click back and forth between pages and results or enter long query strings. Interestingly, users can also get to Google Places listings very effectively through do@.
Despite some of the hyperbole flying around in some of the posts about mobile search “disruption,” do@ isn’t going to displace Google. I suspect, however, that it will find a loyal user base in time and develop a meaningful audience.
Google, Yahoo and Bing have been adapted from PC-centric experiences to mobile. But if you were to build a mobile search engine from the ground up this is how you might do-it.