Yahoo wants to help people find mobile applications and information about them.
On Thursday, the company is unveiling a feature in its search engine called App Search, as well as application search tools for Android and iPhone devices called AppSpot.
Both the new App search feature and the mobile search tools can be used to seek applications for iPhone and Android devices, although the company expects to expand that scope in the future.
For now, Yahoo has indexed the mobile application catalogue of the Android Market and of the Apple App Store, and is convinced that it can do a better job than the search tools of those two online shops.
“Their search is good, but it’s not best-of-breed,” said Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s senior vice president of search.
Finding information about mobile applications, like descriptions, ratings, reviews and recommendations, is at a rudimentary stage similar to web search in the mid-1990s, Seth said.
The way Yahoo sees it, many people today struggle to find the right mobile application among the hundreds of thousands available for Android and iPhone devices.
In addition to letting people search for applications through conventional query terms, the Yahoo search tools also offer up recommendations based on users’ preferences and likes; solicit and display reviews and ratings; and provide categories for browsing.
Once a user chooses an application, the Yahoo search tools provide direct links to it in either the App Store or the Android Market.
Yahoo may broaden the scope of the search tools’ index to include applications for tablet devices like the iPad and in other mobile stores, such as the ones for Samsung, Research In Motion and Nokia devices, Seth said.
If it sees enough demand, Yahoo may also later include in App Search information and links to Web applications for desktop browsers, such as the tens of thousands that have been created for sites like Facebook and Twitter, he said.