Yahoo has acquired Aviate, a company that provides “contextual” app search and organisation for mobile phone users, Marissa Mayer announced at CES — the huge tech conference in Las Vegas — today.
“Contextual” search is becoming a huge deal at the major tech brands. Google, Microsoft’s Bing, Apple and Facebook all have contextual or “semantic” search efforts under way.
Basically, contextual search differs from the regular search you know on Google by trying to anticipate what you really mean or want based on cues in your past searches or in other stores of data the search tool has access to. It’s not just about matching keywords and ranking incoming links. Sometimes it is called latent search.
In the case of Yahoo’s new Aviate business, the product will organise the apps on your home’s phonescreen according to its best guess at what you need to see right now.
As you carry your phone around, Aviate “suggests music apps in your car, fitness apps in the gym, bringing you what you need when you need it,” Mayer said. If you have a history of looking up stocks on your phone, you could “wake up to a homescreen of stock quotes instead of having to scroll for an app.”
“Imagine your phone delivers the right experience to you at the right time, instead of you having to search for it.”
The problem Mayer is trying to fix is (probably) right there on your own phone: You download loads of apps but use only a few of them. Sometimes, you have to scroll through several screens of unused or irrelevant apps to get the one app you need right now.
“The future of search is contextual knowledge, and we’re investing to be part of this future,” she told attendees.
Of course, such a search product would sit in front of Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store by trying to locate stuff for you before you reach for those other search functions. And, obviously, Mayer used to work at Google and had a major role in the development of Google’s search business — so she knows where Google is vulnerable.
As part of Yahoo’s enhanced search efforts, the company has conducted 600 experiments on user experience in Yahoo Search, Mayer said, and Yahoo has 869 partners in its affiliate search business.