10 June 2015

Backchannel: “How Google is taking Search Outside the Box”

For instance, Google now says that it has expanded its app indexing program to Apple’s iOS platform. “App indexing” is the practice of Hoovering up the data that lives inside apps, the first step to making that information available by Google searching — it’s analogous to crawling the web. Google has been doing this since 2013 for Android apps, essentially creating an index that lives on a simulation of a giant Android phone. And I do mean giant: there are 50 billion deep links indexed so far. (Deep links are those which take you directly to relevant information inside an app, as opposed to leading you to the front door.)

Another potential hurdle is getting total buy-in from developers, who must not only allow Google to scrape their content, but actually do some work to make their apps integrate fully into Google’s scheme. This seems like a no brainer. After all, if the data in your app surfaces in a Google search result, users are more likely to use that app. What’s more, Google has started to give results from apps that are not installed on a user’s device. For instance, if you are searching for a recipe, Google might give you a deep link to a cooking app you don’t have. In those cases, there’s an opportunity to download the app. So we actually are kind of promoting your app in line, says Huffman.

Steven Levy

There’s nothing ‘potential’ about that hurdle if you ask me; it’s very real and one of the biggest threats to search dominance. On the open web developers can opt-out of being included in search results (by blocking individual crawlers in robots.txt); few have reason to do so though, giving Google access to most of this information. In the app world on the other hand, external search is opt-in, meaning by default no information is available for indexing by search bots. This makes it much easier for other platforms to keep ‘their’ data hidden from : Amazon, , , Microsoft – less so, since it recently entered a new agreement with for access to Twitter data. The problem is more evident on iOS, where Google search is itself confined to an app like all others – either Chrome or Google Search. It’s another example of the strategic importance of Android: without its control of a major smartphone operating system, Google could find itself completely locked out of large amounts of data needed to feed the advertising machine.

Google Now on Tap Demo at I/O 2015

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