Mobile apps can be the bane of Google — isolated spaces where the search engine does not mediate. But Google, being Google, finds a way.
The search giant’s effort here advanced on two fronts Wednesday, with new mobile features that let users find apps that are already installed and, through a novel invention, stream apps that they have yet to download. They give us a solid glimpse of how Google sees the future of our phones.
That’s important for Google given mobile’s growing dominance. Unlike desktops, smartphone navigation doesn’t typically start with a single search engine — indexing apps may be one way to replicate that primacy for mobile.
The first feature: Two years ago, Google began placing apps inside mobile search. If you built an app, Google would show it in relevant results, provided that you also built matching Web content. Quickly, this reached Google-sized scale, with over 100 billion app pages indexed, as search SVP Amit Singhal shared at the Code/Mobile Conference. Among those are pages from popular apps such as Pinterest and Facebook.
Starting today, Google will surface apps in search that have apps alone, not matching Web content. It’s starting with nine partners. (Oddly, for Google’s example, it picked last-minute booking app HotelTonight, which, last week, axed more than a third of its staff.)