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

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Apple’s growing internal research group – aiming to make Spotlight a legitimate web search engine – is led by the team acquired in 2013 with social search company Topsy, Appleinsider has learned.

Topsy co-founder and CTO Vipul Ved Prakash is the research group’s engineering director, while Topsy product manager, Jamie de Guerre, leads the engineering program management team. Perl fixture Chip Salzenberg – Topsy’s former chief engineer – is “reifying Star Trek” for the iPhone maker.

Apple paid over $ 200 million for Topsy, one of the few analytics companies to have access to Twitter’s “firehose,” a real-time feed of every tweet.

While Apple’s intentions weren’t clear at the time, it now appears the company was interested in Topsy’s indexing and search expertise, rather than anything specifically related. to social media – although tweets are on their way to Spotlight. The team that Prakash and Guerre lead is mostly made up of former Topsy staff.

Publicly, the deal first paid off with the release of OS X Yosemite and the new “Spotlight Suggestions” feature, which integrates information from the web into Spotlight searches and feeds the suggested results seen in the search box. Smart Safari 8.

The Topsy team is responsible for Spotlight Suggestions, which also powers Safari’s smart search box.

Underlying these results is a new internal web crawler called AppleBot. AppleBot allows Apple to index the web and provide search results without relying on third parties, which could cause problems for traditional search engines like Google.

Earlier Wednesday, Google recognized that it has seen mobile search volume eclipse desktop search volume in 10 countries, including the United States and Japan. Given that Google views tablets as desktops, the balance is likely to tip even more towards mobile devices, of which Apple sells nearly 200 million each year.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Apple is considering continuing to expand Spotlight’s web search capabilities and could potentially offer it as a general-purpose search option for iOS and OS X users.

Apple bolstered the Topsy team with many more hires, starting to ramp up its search efforts in 2013. The Apple Search group currently has more than a dozen Jobs for positions ranging from infrastructure operations to data science and location-based research specialists.

“Apple’s new Spotlight suggestion service delivers fast, relevant Internet search results in Spotlight and Safari on iOS and OS X,” many listings read. “The Spotlight Suggestions service relies on a massive amount of data crawled from the Internet, sourced from feeds and generated from user interactions with search results.”

Any decision by Apple to favor its own search engine for iOS and OS X could – in addition to attracting regulatory scrutiny – – deal a blow to Google, which is the default search engine on both platforms. For years.

Google primarily relies on search engine advertising for its revenue and is already seeing its share of mobile ad spend eroded by competitors like Facebook. The loss of traffic to hundreds of millions of Apple device users in the midst of the mobile revolution could be devastating, and this scenario is a big part of Google’s strategy with Android.

From Apple’s point of view, the argument for rolling out its own internal search engine is about the same as that for ramping up its own internal cards.

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


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