The web is transforming, and we’re right there with it.

Today we announced our partnership with Ask.com, providing millions of users with apps to help answer their questions. This signals a shift in the way we search the web, as Ask.com is the first of the world’s largest search engines to feature a third party app search in their primary results—bridging the gap between the app economy and the web.

Now all Ask.com users will see apps in the main search results for any app-specific query, such as “best iphone games for kids,” “apps for finding bicycle trails,” and “angry birds.” In addition, “apps” will now be its own search tab powered by Quixey, next to image, video, and news. All major mobile platforms are supported, including Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry.

When people search online, what they don’t realize is that their queries are often better answered with an app as opposed to a blue link with arbitrary information. This partnership caters directly toward this perception of apps as a highly valuable source of content. As Shane McGilloway, Chief Operations Officer at Ask.com, put it, “Q&A sites must deliver content-rich experiences to engage users at scale, [and] apps are gateways to some of the most top-notch digital content out there.”

For example, when you search “watch Toy Story,” you’re not asking for a bunch of arbitrary links about Toy Story and Pixar. What you want is a way to watch the movie online—through apps such as Hulu, Netflix, and HBOGO. In future integrations, “watch Toy Story” will return these apps. Similarly, “how do I book a cab” will return taxi-booking apps that allow you to book a cab on the spot.

We’re currently witnessing a transformation of the web from static sites to apps, and this partnership is a perfect way to blend the two worlds. Instead of a web based largely on content and information, apps have pushed the evolution toward a web of functionality and action. Implementing app results directly into a search engine as large as Ask.com is very significant because it directly caters to this transformation.

Sam Lellouche, Director of Product Management at Quixey, noted the importance of the Ask partnership: “As our largest public partnership, the Ask deal lays a great foundation for future partnerships and product integrations to come,” he said. “We’ve been looking forward to this launch for a long time, and we’re very excited to bring Quixey’s technology to millions of Ask users.”

Quixey is at the forefront of solving the app discovery problem, and this partnership is a clear example of our efforts to change the game when it comes to search. This type of partnership is simply the beginning—users will soon have access to added functionality wherever and whenever they want it, allowing them to solve very specific problems exactly when the need arises. Read more about the Ask integration on TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Associated Press, and Search Engine Journal, and stay tuned for more exciting partnership announcements in the coming year!

Quixey.com Has a New Look

December 3rd, 2012 | Posted by Quixey in Quixey News - (0 Comments)

Quixey’s site just got an upgrade!

Over the past few months, we’ve taken a hard look at Quixey.com and feedback we’ve received from users, applying that information to a completele reworking of the site’s interface and experience. As the company continues to move at breakneck speed, a lot of our resources have recently been focused on building our APIs. Now we feel it’s time to match our site’s feel with its status as the central online presence of one of the world’s fastest-growing startups. We
know we still have a long way to go, and this is just the beginning.

First, let’s talk about the homepage. We’ve kept it very simple, acknowledging that users don’t need a flood of options and information thrown at them the second they land on a website. Most people usually have a sense of what they’re looking for, so the first decision they make is what kind of app they want to find—smartphone, browser, desktop, or web. That’s why the most noticeable buttons contain exactly these options. Hover over them and you’ll see the platforms we search—now you can immediately filter your query to the platform that suits you. For example, if you want Android apps, hover over “Mobile” and select “Android.” Easily found, quickly selected.

We’ve also implemented a new feature to show users the full potential our search. Our technology is far more powerful than anything else on the market, but its total functionality is rarely tapped into. That’s why we introduced the “Sample Searches” banner below the search bar. Clicking it brings up common areas of your life to use Quixey, and hovering over one of them will bring up suggested queries. For example, hover over “for Cooking” and queries such as “cook healthier food” and “time the perfect egg” appear. These examples we’ve provided are a good indicator of the kinds of queries you can type into the search bar. We invented Functional Search® to allow users to find apps without even knowing exactly what they’re looking for—all you have to do is type what you want to do, like “wake me up with a song”  or “study for the SAT” and we’ll return apps to help.

Now that you know what kinds of queries to type, plug one into the search bar. After you hit enter, you’ll be taken to a completely redesigned SERP (Search Engine Results Page). On the left you’ll see a list of apps that cater directly to your query. After clicking anywhere on an app result, information about that app will appear in the empty column to the right. Instead of clicking multiple times to learn about the app, everything you need to know appears in one place, allowing you to make a quick decision. This is valuable because if you don’t like an app, you can simply click on a different one without having to click the back button.

 

Under “Information,” you can read about the app, view screenshots, and filter by price. Click on the light blue button (which says “FREE” or the price) and you’ll be taken directly to that platform’s app store to download it. Directly below that button is the dark blue editions button, containing a range of prices. Click on it to view the different versions of an app (i.e. free, lite, HD, paid, etc).

When you’re on the results page, clicking on the title of any app will take you to that app’s page. There, in addition to larger screenshots and more detailed information, you can also learn more specifics about the different editions on the left side of the page.

In redesigning our website, we put the experience of our users first. We feel like it’s much improved now, but can’t wait to keep making it better. We’re never satisfied, we know we have a long way to go, and we highly value any feedback received. Give the site a whirl and tell us what you think!

How to Build a Search Engine

August 9th, 2011 | Posted by Quixey in Technology - (0 Comments)

This post was written by one of our search advisors, Eric Glover.  Eric Glover has more than twelve years of commercial web search experience and a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Michigan. He has held key technical roles at multiple search engine companies and is a recognized expert in web scale machine learning and categorization.

In this blog post, I’d like to talk about the main components of search. Search has five main parts:Step 1: Receive the user’s query. Step 2: Parse the query to construct a ‘database query.’ Step 3: Using the database query, assemble the ‘consideration set’ of results to consider for scoring. Step 4: Score the consideration set. Step 5: Present results to the user based on the scores from Step 4.

These steps are common to all major search engines. Notably, Google, eBay, Bing, and Amazon apply unique algorithms and search different data for different purposes, and end up with different results.

Quixey is particularly unique among search engines. We invented a new type of search – functional search – specifically for apps. In this post, I’ll explain what standard search engines do and what we do differently.

Step 1 – Receive the user’s query.

Receiving the user’s query isn’t as simple as receiving what the user has typed. Sometimes external factors influence the query’s meaning – factors like the user’s country, browser, language, or device.

Screen shot 2011-08-09 at 12.01.52 PM.png

This is particularly crucial for an app search engine and functional search. For example, whether users search from an iPhone or an Android phone should influence how the search engine understands their queries. Moreover, someone in Russia may want different apps than someone in the United States.

Step 2 – Parse the query to construct a ‘database query’.

The old-school, simple method of parsing a query is to split it into individual words. Sometimes this involves removing ‘stop words’ (the, is, at, which) and the ‘stem’ of the query – for example, “help me to do my taxes” could be simplified into ['do','help','me','my',taxes','to'], or even something as simple as ['tax'].

As you might imagine, this is a dangerous strategy. It ignores the fact that user intent is not always a direct function of the individual words entered by the searcher. When searching for apps, “convert mp3 to flac” is a very different query than “mp3 AND flac.” Likewise, “tax” and “do my taxes” mean very different things. Misspellings, extra words, missing words, and unrelated words will severely throw off a search engine that doesn’t make this distinction.

It is a huge task to properly parse queries for your database. Most other search engines ignore the problem or solve it poorly. A query like ‘restaurants’, when interpreted incorrectly, will return so many results that the search engine won’t be able to score them all. Linguistics, intent-analysis and data considerations make this step extremely difficult.

Step 3 – Using the database query, assemble the ‘consideration set’ of results to consider for scoring.

Once the query has been transformed for optimal searching, you can use your new ‘database query’ to query the database. It is worth noting that the database query might have virtually no text in common with the keywords the user entered.

You can then select a consideration set based on the database query. The consideration set defines which results are worth considering. For example, queries like “paleontology” might generate a reasonably small consideration set, but queries like ‘racing games’ can generate consideration sets so large that scoring is impractical. That means it’s really important to parse queries properly in Step 2, as well as use algorithms that form manageable consideration sets.

Not only must the consideration set be small enough, but the algorithms used to generate it must be computationally efficient.

Step 4 – Score the consideration set.

A CS grad student writing a paper about ranking can win a Best Paper award even if his algorithm takes an hour to run a single query. Unfortunately, a commercial search engine can’t tell the user to wait hours for results. This creates a trade-off, often not discussed in academic circles, between the result response time and quality of results. The quality of results also correlates with the number of results considered.

Scoring is often the most computationally costly part of a search. Scoring results works as follows:

  1. Map each result to a set of (usually numerical) features, like the keywords’ frequency in the description.
  2. Apply a function to these features to calculate a meaningful score.

Competitors in the search space are differentiated by the data they access and the algorithms they use to score results. Quixey stands apart because of the wealth of data we use to score apps, and the precision of our scoring algorithm.

This combination is so successful because we invented functional search specifically for apps. Apps have a different set of important features than static web pages, so the standard text features sought by traditional search engines aren’t effective for finding apps. What makes one web page a better result than another is meaningless for apps, which often lack official home pages.

For example, the number of times an app is downloaded is more important than how many people link to its homepage. Likewise, the number of reviews might not be useful, because this metric strongly favors older apps.

Step 5 – Present results to the user based on the scores from Step 4.

It might seem easy to present results to the users by sorting by score. Unfortunately, this problem is more complex. What information should you display, and how do you organize the results? Should a result with a score of 49.9999 really display below a result with a score of 50.0000?

A simple ‘title text-match’ app search works fine when users knows the names of the apps they are looking for. However, our data shows that 86% of queries describe functions, not app names. People need to be able to find apps even if they don’t know what those apps are called.

Any type of ranking system is quite difficult and requires a lot of expertise. Our search requires collecting the right data, analyzing queries, effectively using and building a database, scoring based on the right features, and presenting the results in an intelligent way that helps users determine what they want.

In my next post, I will go into more detail about how Quixey does search differently.