Deep search is coming to mobile, and will change everything

Google web search was based on ‘spidering’ the web, to discover linkage patterns across web pages. This was the basis of ‘page rank’ and the enormously important role that has played in the rise of the web, and search-based advertising. However, as more information is locked in silos on smart device apps traditional browser-based search can’t get at that information very effectively. For example, a search in Chrome for a contact’s name may bring up their Twitter account, but it won’t find a to do in your Asana app with that person’s name in it.

Rolfe Winkler writes in the Wall Street Journal about Google’s efforts to insinuate itself into a keystone role in the ‘app age’, as he characterizes it:

Google in the fall launched an initiative to better see—and direct—what smartphone and tablet users do on their devices. The effort seeks to mimic what Google built on the Web, with an index of the content inside mobile apps and links pointing to that content featured in Google’s search results on smartphones.

Other big Web companies, including Facebook and Twitter are pursuing similar strategies. Facebook is having early success with ads that prompt users to install apps.

Google’s initiative has won several prominent backers, including online encyclopedia Wikipedia, travel site Expedia, restaurant guide Open Table and the IMDb movie database, all of which are incorporating links into their apps. A search for movie information using the Google search app on an Android phone, for example, may show a link to the movie’s page within the IMDb app, provided the smartphone user has the app installed.

On a phone, links to apps often are more useful than Web links. The apps may be tuned for the smaller screen, and tap features of the phone, like knowing a user’s location, to provide more relevant information: the Open Table app can automatically show restaurants nearby.

A business-critical example of the difference of mobile use is this accelerating trend of app-knowledgeable search on mobile devices, which can pull information buried in apps and present the results in a collated and actionable way. This could be from email, communications tools, CRM, work management or the like, and presented like a folio, with active links back to the apps.

For all the appeal to Google and other advertising-revenue based tools, the opportunity for this sort of deep search over the information in mobile business apps is just as appealing, or even more so.

Imagine the scenario where I am using a number of unintegrated applications — Todoist for tasks, Gmail for email, and Yammer for working out loud — and imagine that they are all using a de facto or de jure standard for internal information being indexed and deep linked to on the mobile device.

Obviously Google, Facebook, etc. all want the vendors to play with them exclusively, but developers are bandwidth limited. I am betting that Google will have a huge advantage here.

So, let’s consider the Google search scenario, where a Google Now display becomes my default dashboard, with various cards of information pulled from the various sources Google can deep search.

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Of course the info in the screenshot above isn’t from Yammer, or Todoist. But the benefits for me would be significant, and in fact would be a richer and deeper experience than I currently have on my laptop.

And there is one final insight to share. Whoever is presenting that activity stream on the mobile device — here it is Google — has an incredible opportunity to become the social stratum of business and personal communications and coordination. Yes, all the tools I mentioned are social to some extent or another, but I have different and unintegrated identities on those tools. Whoever can do the best deep search will also be in a position to become the most central social sphere as well. So, deep search might be the way that Google finally makes Google+ critical instead of irrelevant.