Xyologic brings its intent parsing app search engine to iOS, enters open beta

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By Kathleen De Vere Comments

Berlin-based Xyologic is opening the beta of its new mobile app search technology to the public and expanding its coverage to include iOS apps. Starting today, anyone can use the new tool to parse app store chaos into what Xyologic promises will be useful recommendations beyond top ranking charts and featured app lists.

Originally bootstrapped as a mobile analytics company, Xyologic closed what was rumored to be a seven figure round of funding in August in order to start working on its real goal — fixing how smartphone users discover and search for mobile apps.

The company’s Xyo Mobile App Search has a simple goal, explains co-founder  Matthäus Krzykowski — to help the mainstream app user figure out what they actually want, when they can’t say what they actually want. This, he explains, is why app store discoverability is such a big problem, one that even the likes of Apple and Google haven’t been able to fix.

According to Xyologic, app search is terrible. In traditional browser-based search, specific terms are matched to websites that receive quality rankings based on how many incoming links they have. That approach doesn’t work at all in an app store, since there are no incoming links from other apps that determine the most relevant results, and users aren’t looking for specific information. Instead, most of the terms the average smartphone owner uses to search for new apps are little more than vague expressions of intent. The company estimates 75 to 80 percent of all searches consist of a user punching in a general app category like “puzzle games” or “photography”. A further 10 to 15 percent of all app searches are even more vague requests for inspiration; phrases like “fun games” or “new apps”. Overall, the company found less than five percent of all users search for specific apps by name or brand.

This problem with how users search for apps is then further compounded by the small amount of “shelf space” actually available, adds Krzykowski, who explains users don’t have a meaningful way to browse the app stores.

“Right now if you look at [an app in] iTunes, it’s a logo. It’s shiny, it’s funky but it doesn’t really say much,” he says. “There are some generic categories and that’s pretty much it. The key point is the editorial: this is new, this is featured. That’s what decides what makes it to the top 25 charts.”

Simply indexing the content an app store doesn’t solve this problem, he adds, which is why Xyo Mobile App Search has done away with the native categories found in the iTunes App Store and Google Play, and replaced them with what it calls App Interests and Game Interests. These are new categories the company has created based a complicated algorithm that sorts apps based on combination of metadata information, popularity, downloads, reviews, social signals, general sentiment about the app and other factors.

For now, Xyologic has identified 700 app interests and 100 game interests, but the categories aren’t set in stone; instead, they’re designed to reflect what is currently popular in the mobile ecosystem.

“Let’s say you type in free games. We know everyone knows about driving games, so it will likely show you some of these games,” says Krzykowski when asked how turning over 700,000 apps into more than 800 categories improves search accuracy. “What we’re really focusing on is on your second search. Whatever you typed in on the first search, we want to present you with the options. It’s like coming to a restaurant and asking for wine. We start with something generic and then tell you here are the options, this is what people like.”

The difference in approach, explains Krzykowski, was immediately noticeable, even though the company’s closed beta only covered Android apps and lasted just over a month. “We’re not ready to announce any numbers because we’re still in beta, but just by showing people options a lot of people look at new things and download them,” he says. “We’re really happy.”

The Xyo Mobile App Search is currently in beta, and analyzes both iPhone and Android apps in the U.S. Users can try the tool for themselves by visiting the Xyologic website.