Shashi Seth, SVP of Search & Marketplaces at Yahoo believes that mobile apps are like websites in the early days of the internet and will only continue to multiply just as websites have done — seemingly exponentially. Regardless of whether the analogy is 100 percent accurate everyone agrees that app discovery has become a big problem. Among other things, it has given rise to an Amazon app store and several independent app-discovery sites like Chomp.
Mobile (and increasingly desktop) apps are are an important new content category that Seth believes must be addressed by search. Accordingly, this evening Yahoo is launching app search for the PC and a mobile app-search app, called AppSpot, for iPhone and Android. Eventually Yahoo wants to index RIM and Windows Phone apps, Seth told me.
Both app search on the PC and the AppSpot mobile apps are intended to make apps more discoverable and provide more context to users. App search will be available in general Yahoo search but also have its own dedicated “vertical” area. Apps will also show up in Yahoo Search Direct.
Beyond simply indexing apps, as mentioned, Yahoo has created a rich environment on the PC with additional content that helps users both discover and evaluate new apps. There’s a carousel that circulates top apps in each category. You can also search by keyword (“Angry Birds”) or category (“games for kids”) or browse by category (e.g., entertainment, education, productivity). There will also be personalized recommendations as users engage with app search and the AppSpot.
Each app profile page (see below) offers screenshots, descriptions, ratings and pricing information. And you can filter by free, paid and top apps. Numerous (though certainly not all) apps have been reviewed by Yahoo editorial writers.
On the profile page you also see a list of “trending apps” (like trending search queries) based on a range of signals, including search queries and social mentions (not just downloads). Seth says the Yahoo app search environment is intended to be highly dynamic and offer changes throughout the day rather than a static list of top downloads.
When users click on a yellow “buy” button they’re taken to a window that either sends them to the relevant app store or initiates a text message to enable downloading directly on the phone.
The mobile app, AppSpot, is not quite as polished an environment (at least the Android version that I tested). However it offers the same content in a slightly different UI presentation. Seth said that app search would be coming to Yahoo mobile search as well.
Here are some of the features of app search as explained by Yahoo:
- Daily Personal Picks: Unlike ‘Top Apps’ lists that provide the same apps day after day, you’ll get new, personalized app suggestions on a daily basis, so you’re always introduced to the latest, most interesting, and relevant apps.
- More Precise Results: Using Yahoo!’s sophisticated search technology, quickly zero-in on an app by showing matching app titles as well as related keywords as you type
- Related Apps: Discover similar apps within the “more apps you’ll love” section to find related apps that best match your needs.
- At-a-Glance Shopping: Review the price, overall star ratings, screenshots, and description all on one screen to avoid the endless scrolling.
- Fast & Easy Downloads: Direct links to the specific app pages within the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace make downloading an app a snap.
Especially on the PC I think Yahoo has done a nice job indexing and building context around apps to offer users multiple ways to discover new apps. Yahoo partner Bing recently integrated iPhone app search into is mobile web upgrade.
Right now there’s no advertising or other real monetization (beyond the modest affiliate revenue) associated with Yahoo app search or AppSpot. Eventually however Yahoo will allow advertising in these areas.