Google has had the monopoly on search for quite some time now, despite Yahoo and Bing’s best efforts. But there’s a new kid on the block which might just be able to offer users a better mobile search experience. It’s called Vurb, and it does one key thing that Google can’t; it connects users directly with apps, rather than sites that may or may not have been optimised for mobile.
Vurb has been in development since 2011, steadily raising funds and nabbing the grand prize at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY Startup Battlefield 2014. It officially launched this week. “Mobile search is totally wide open,” says founder Bobby Lo, because everything is gravitating towards usage of apps.”
The aim of Vurb is to make multi-tasking on your phone easier. Say you’re planning a night out with friends. That might involve chatting to them on WhatsApp or iMessage to check what time they’re free, then searching for restaurants and bars, reading a handful of reviews on Yelp, and locating them on Google Maps. All of which involves a lot of switching between tabs and app screens, which can be a finickity nuisance, no matter how large your phablet display.
Via deep links, Vurb enables you to carry out all of these tasks within a single easy-to-use space, in addition to giving you contextual suggestions based on your searches, e.g. other happening spots in the neighbourhood where you’re planning your big night. This dovetails neatly with monetisation; search functionality and customised recommendations will yield all manner of opportunities for sponsored results.
As Josh Constine at TechCrunch points out, other apps such as WeChat are also benefiting from bundling app functionality together in one place for their users. “What’s encouraging is that Vurb manifests in the West a trend that China is already demonstrating,” he says. “The future of mobile lies in uniting fragmented functionality from across the app ecosystem into a centralised hub.”
So while Google is in no danger of being usurped on the web, when it comes to mobile, Vurb has everything to play for.