What's 'Appening' with Search and Apps

By Notess, Greg R. | Online Searcher, November-December 2013 | Go to article overview

What's 'Appening' with Search and Apps


Notess, Greg R., Online Searcher


Technology trends come and go. The latest trends emphasize what is new, exciting, and different. As soon as you get comfortable with the latest social network, a new one appears. The fanciest (and most expensive) new device quickly becomes dated within a year or two as new versions emerge.

With the rapid shift in the last few years toward phones smarter than last year's smartphones, tablets, ebook readers, and other devices, the changing hardware environment has also had a major impact on software. Apps have become the hot new standard approach for delivering entertainment and information content. At the same time, they have enabled new search features as well as created roadblocks to search.

Part of this seems no more than a terminology change. The older terms of "software" and "applications" and the combined "software applications" seem to have devolved to the shorter "apps." On the positive side, apps are often much less expensive (many are free) than a standard desktop software application. Beyond just the wording change, the more significant impact has been to create different information access issues between apps and web access.

Monopolies and standardization around a single operating system, application, web browser, app, or other technology may stifle creativity, but they can also provide a single common interface for most users that enables easier access. For years, websites provided information on the net, and while web browsers had slight differences in display or functionality on some sites, in general the website provided a single, undifferentiated source for information. In today's online world, searchers may find themselves divided by device, operating system (OS), app, or browser. They may find themselves with different levels of access to information depending on all of those variables.

The app universe provides great opportunities for developers and content creators to build new tools, experiment with new interfaces, and offer unique, branded content. For the online searcher, it can create challenges related to access, depth of information content, and ways to share found information with clients/users/patrons. Searchers may need to add a collection of apps and devices to support a full range of search options.

SEARCH APPS

Smartphone and tablet operating systems have been the main focus of app development. Google's Android OS, Apple's iOS, and more recently Microsoft's Windows 8 with its Metro/Modern user interface (UI) all have app stores (Apple App Store, Google Play, and Windows Store). Yet the term "app" is also increasingly used for software on laptops/desktops or even just for websites.

Quixey (https://www.quixey.com) continues to be one of the best general search engines for apps not tied to one specific OS such as the Apple Store or Google Play. Quixey includes apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Mac, Windows, browser extensions, and the web.

The major search engines have their own specialized apps. Not only are there Google and Bing search apps, but their other services and databases sometimes have separate apps. Google for example has many apps including the following ones available from the Apple App Store:

* Google Search

* Google Maps

* Chrome

* Gmail

* Google Earth

* Google+

* YouTube

* Google Drive

* Catalogs

* Currents

* Google Translate

* Google Play Books

* Google Fiber

Other search engines also have specialized search apps. DuckDuckGo, which stresses the privacy aspects of its search engine, has apps for iOS, Windows 8, and Android. izik, blekko's search engine optimized for tablets, has an app that displays search results in categories to give context to the results. While most of these are free apps, Wolfram|Alpha sells its search app for $2.99. …

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