Mobile search: The paradigm is shifting beneath our feet2012-03-06
Paradigm shift is one of those phrases so embraced by business that it eventually lost all meaning, ultimately becoming just another option on a Bullshit Bingo player card. Like most corporate jargon, though, it had its origins in a valid concept. A paradigm shift is a change in fundamental assumptions shared by the members of a community.
Watchmaking is the classic example of a paradigm shift. For decades, the Swiss dominated the field; with 65% of the world watch market and an unsurpassed reputation, the Swiss stood alone at the pinnacle of the field. With the advent of the digital watch, however, the Swiss saw its market share plummet from 65% to less than 10%. Out of 62,000 Swiss watchmakers, 50,000 found themselves out of work.
The fact that the Swiss still made the finest watches with the best precision and most accurate mechanisms became meaningless. “All the advantages they had accrued in the old paradigm were worthless in the new,” according to futurist Joel Barker, an observer of paradigm shifts.
One characteristic of a paradigm shift is those in the middle of it are often unable to see it happening. That may well be true of a currently shifting paradigm. The community’s assumption of the old paradigm: The web is the web, whether it’s on a 29-inch monitor or a smartphone. Your choices are to develop a discrete native app or optimize content in order to fit the smaller footprint of mobile devices.
Under this paradigm, Google has been the Swiss watchmaker of search, whether it’s on a desktop computer or a mobile device. But a mobile Google search is the same on a phone as it is on a laptop, delivering a search engine results page made up of hyperlinks. The new paradigm to which we are headed is one in which we recognize that a phone is so different from a tethered computer than the whole notion of search and discovery will change based on those differences, which have as much to do with user intent as they do with form factor.
These were my thoughts as I kicked the tires on Everything.me, a mobile search utility that may well be the vanguard of this transition; it’s the Japanese digital watch paradigm of mobile search. Everything.me’s focus is not on web-wide search results, but specifically on the mobile-wide web results that make far more sense for somebody searching for content on their phone.
Everything.me is the work of DoAT, which first unveiled the utility as part of what it calls The Everything Project back in May 2011 at TechCrunch Disrupt. A lot of work has gone into it since then, leading the company to open a public beta last month.
All of Everything.me occurs within your mobile browser (it’s easily saved to your bookmarks). It opens with a set of rotating images that designate current trending topics along with local and weather resources. Tap one of these to be taken to a familiar-looking screen of app icons, although these are web apps, not native apps—or what DoAT calls “Instant Apps.” They open the relevant results on the HTML5 mobile site offered by each service. Here’s a quick walk-through:
A search of “everything” not only generates a screen of web apps with the relevant search already conducted, but with a relevant image serving as wallpaper to indicate that Everything.me pulled up the right results.
DoAT is inviting publishers who have “spent time building elegant and powerful solutions that answer your consumers’ needs” to submit their sites to be added to the suite of results Everything.me delivers.
The benefits of Everything.me over Google should be obvious: fast results of just what you’re looking for when you’re out and about with no linking to standard web pages. This new paradigm, then, is one in which mobile search produces mobile results instead of just duplicating the computer-centric web on a mobile device. As more and more computing migrates to mobile devices, you can imagine this kind of search displacing Google and whittling away at its dominant search position.
For marketers and communicators, the implications should be clear. Even as we’re in the midst of the shift that may not be evident to most people, those who undertake the development of a mobile strategy that recognizes the shift will win as users transition to this more logical, common-sense approach to finding stuff on their phones.
You can see a video of Cathy Brooks, head of Communications and Social Strategy for The Everything Project (and host of the podcast, Social Media Hour, discussing and demonstrating Everything.me at CES this past January. I’ve shot my own video of a brief tour of the utility:
Also, be sure to read Sarah Perez’s take on The Everything Project on TechCrunch.
Can’t you just feel the paradigm shifting beneath your feet?