Apple challenges Google with growing Web search program, fueled by Topsy acquisition

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2015
Apple's rapidly-expanding internal search group --?aimed at making Spotlight a legitimate Web search engine --?is being led by the team acquired in 2013 with social search firm Topsy, AppleInsider has learned.




Topsy co-founder and CTO Vipul Ved Prakash serves as the search group's director of engineering, while Topsy product chief Jamie de Guerre leads the engineering program management team. Perl luminary Chip Salzenberg --?Topsy's former chief engineer --?is "reifying Star Trek" for the iPhone maker.

Apple paid more than $200 million for Topsy, one of the few analytics firms with access to Twitter's "firehose," a realtime stream of each and every tweet.

While Apple's intentions were unclear at the time, it now appears that the company was interested in Topsy's indexing and searching expertise, rather than anything specifically related to social media -- though tweets are on their way to Spotlight. The team that Prakash and de Guerre helm is primarily comprised of former Topsy staff.

Publicly, the deal first paid dividends with the release of OS X Yosemite and the new "Spotlight Suggestions" feature, which integrates information from the web into Spotlight searches and powers the suggested results seen in Safari 8's smart search field.
The Topsy team is responsible for Spotlight Suggestions, which also powers Safari's smart search field.
Underpinning those results is a new in-house Web crawler called AppleBot. AppleBot allows Apple to index the web and deliver search results without depending on third parties, which could spell trouble for mainstream search engines like Google.

Earlier on Wednesday, Google acknowledged that it has seen mobile search volume eclipse desktop search volume in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Because Google counts tablets as desktops, it's likely that the balance is skewed even more toward mobile devices --?of which Apple sells nearly 200 million each year.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Apple plans to continue expanding Spotlight's web search capabilities, and could eventually offer it as a general-purpose search option for iOS and OS X users.

Apple has bolstered the team that came from Topsy with numerous other hires, beginning to ramp up its search efforts in 2013. The Apple Search group currently has over a dozen job openings for positions ranging from infrastructure operations to data science and location-based search specialists.

"Apple's new Spotlight Suggestions service provides fast, relevant search results from the Internet in Spotlight and Safari on iOS and OS X," many of the listings read. "The Spotlight Suggestions service is built on massive amount of data crawled from the Internet, sourced from feeds and generated from user interactions with search results."


By default, Apple users can choose between search providers Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.


Any move by Apple to favor its own search engine for iOS and OS X could --?in addition to drawing regulatory scrutiny --?be a body blow to Google, which has been the default search engine on both platforms for years.

Google depends primarily on search advertising for revenue, and is already seeing its share of mobile ad spending eroded by competitors like Facebook. Losing traffic from hundreds of millions of Apple device users in the midst of the mobile revolution could be devastating, and that scenario goes a long way toward explaining Google's strategy with Android.

From Apple's perspective, the argument in favor of deploying its own in-house search engine is much the same as that for ramping up its own in-house maps.

Apple's business depends on hardware sales, and its most lucrative product line --?the iPhone --?is in a market where hardware is quickly becoming commoditized. Software and services are the new battleground, and Apple can't afford to leave major pieces of its platform in the hands of competitors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 95
    rp2011rp2011 Posts: 159member
    Remember when EVERY tech blog writer guffawed and giggled over the ridiculous idea that anyone would want one?
    The tech-o-blog-o-sphere has always been a echo chamber that loves to smell each other's farts.
  • Reply 2 of 95
    rp2011rp2011 Posts: 159member
    oops posted on the wrong story somehow, I thought i was posting on the one about phablets..
  • Reply 3 of 95
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Apple's business depends on hardware sales, and its most lucrative product line --?the iPhone --?is in a market where hardware is quickly becoming commoditized. Software and services are the new battleground, and Apple can't afford to leave major pieces of its platform in the hands of competitors.

    This conclusion makes no sense to me. Hardware is only commoditized in the Android world where Apple has no software or service offerings, search or otherwise.

  • Reply 4 of 95
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    My guess is this is all about Siri and Spotlight not an Apple branded search engine. They'll get into search in kind of a stealth way which will hurt Google all the same.
  • Reply 5 of 95
    konqerrorkonqerror Posts: 685member

    They need to fix the Maps search first. It likes to find randomly named one-stoplight towns in the middle of the country when searching for something three blocks away. You have to search for stores with the exact right name, like "Costco Wholesale" or it gets confused.

  • Reply 6 of 95
    bobjohnsonbobjohnson Posts: 146member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by mstone View Post

     

    This conclusion makes no sense to me. Hardware is only commoditized in the Android world where Apple has no software or service offerings, search or otherwise.


     

    That's the point. It's not nearly as difficult for other companies to make very nice devices - on the hardware side - today as it was 5 years ago. Instead of picking the nicer phone, people will be choosing software platforms.

  • Reply 7 of 95
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    mstone wrote: »
    This conclusion makes no sense to me. Hardware is only commoditized in the Android world where Apple has no software or service offerings, search or otherwise.

    Yeah I didn't get that paragraph either. Software and services are there to make Apple's hardware more compelling and command a premium. Apple needs to put focus on those things that make the ecosystem sticky and make people not want to leave. Siri and Spotlight qualify and I'm glad to see Apple is putting dedicated focus and resources on them.
  • Reply 8 of 95
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,170member

    Google's original PageRank patent expires in 979 days... but who's counting? :D

  • Reply 9 of 95
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    cpsro wrote: »
    Google's original PageRank patent expires in 979 days... but who's counting? :D
    ..and it won't matter at all when it does. It's a complete non-issue with no effect on Google.

    BTW, it's not Google's patent to begin with.
  • Reply 10 of 95
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post





    ..and it won't matter at all when it does. It's a complete non-issue with no effect on Google.



    BTW, it's not Google's patent to begin with.



    Stanford University sold an exclusive license to Google

  • Reply 11 of 95
    bobjohnsonbobjohnson Posts: 146member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

     

    Google's original PageRank patent expires in 979 days... but who's counting? :D


     

    The methods outlined in that patent have been superseded a dozen times over. It'll be great for everyone who wants to compete with 2000-era Google, though, I suppose.

  • Reply 12 of 95
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 15,817member
    mstone wrote: »

    Stanford University sold an exclusive license to Google

    That exclusive period expired a few years ago, the end of 2011 IIRC.
  • Reply 13 of 95
    christopher126christopher126 Posts: 3,595member

    Good.  :)

  • Reply 14 of 95
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,266member
    rogifan wrote: »
    My guess is this is all about Siri and Spotlight not an Apple branded search engine. They'll get into search in kind of a stealth way which will hurt Google all the same.

    Sounds like it. Make search part of the device experience.
  • Reply 15 of 95
    pfisherpfisher Posts: 758member

    Apple is becoming all things to all people? Jack of all trades?

     

    May be hard to keep that focus and there are issues where departments within corporations cause issues for other departments. Also, innovation may slow because one group is waiting for dependencies on another group. Or one group impedes the other. This clearly happened at MS, but that is changing now with new leadership (and no other option).

     

    However, on search, since it is so lucrative for customer info and you want to control that, it's maybe not such a bad thing for Apple to own search, like they want to own customer map information for customer data analysis.

     

    But their services overall have never been that great (but expensive!), so looks like they want to spread themselves thin even more.

  • Reply 16 of 95
    robmrobm Posts: 1,068member
    Exactly SN - why launch a browser ?
    Spotlight, or some other named derivative, could deliver search results right to your desktop.
  • Reply 17 of 95
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,236member

    And all of these news come with the price: AAPL dropped to below $124. This is fcking buying time right before ex-dividend day tomorrow. I just grab another 100 shares and set limit sale all my AAPL at $135...(by WWDC hopefully). Move to long term investment on ETF instead, guys. Damn stock so volatile because of the manipulative idiots in Wall Street and that pissed me off.

    BTW, Google revenue relies mostly in search and this may cause a dent in their business. 

  • Reply 18 of 95
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 2,734member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    My guess is this is all about Siri and Spotlight not an Apple branded search engine. They'll get into search in kind of a stealth way which will hurt Google all the same.



    All the same this is an important step in laying the foundation for that. I'm happy to hear this. I'd like a good search engine alternative that doesn't hoover up my search proclivities and regurgitate them back to me in unexpected ads in weird places. Apple will do it right, and I hope to be able to use it. Spotlight has however developed some new annoying habits as of late that I don't care for, like searching the iTunes Store for songs I'm looking for on my Mac locally, perhaps there's a way, or will be a way to limit that. And that to me is almost like advertising cluttering my search results.

  • Reply 19 of 95
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 718member

    This could be gigantic.

  • Reply 20 of 95
    You can already turn off iTunes and much more in the spotlight settings.
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