Apple Reportedly Has Secret Team Working on App Store Search and Discovery

Apple and SearchSearch is hard. Ask every search engine. Discovery is harder. Ask every retailer. Apple is no more immune to these two immutable facts than anyone else, and this rears its ugly head most in the App Store, where discovery sucks about as bad as it does everywhere else.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has a new secret team working on this task. It's headed by Apple Vice President Todd Teresi, who led Apple's iAd ad business until CEO Tim Cook gutted it, and the 100 person team includes former iAd engineers. Read Bloomberg's report for more information.

Can Apple solve discovery? Maybe. The company has traditionally done its best work with small teams (is 100 people small?) working in secret. It's part of that thing taught at Apple University, and it seems that if anyone can solve discovery, it's Apple.


One of the details reported by Bloomberg is that this team is considering paid search results in the App Store. Bloomberg's angle is that this would add another revenue stream for Apple's growing services business, which was almost US$20 billion in fiscal 2015.

I've no doubt paid search is something the team is considering, but I certainly hope it's not the focus of the team's work. Paid search results seem most likely to allow big developers to get bigger at the further expense of small ones—it certainly favors well-financed companies, and depending on how it's implemented, it could do so without serving customers.

My bias there is that paid results are separate from good results. They're not necessarily exclusive, but they are most definitely separate.

All that said. despite not being privy to Bloomberg's sources, I don't think for a second paid results are the focus of this team. Instead, I think Apple has brought together the search and discovery assets and talent pool the company has acquired in the last few years and is trying to solve—or at least improve—the challenges of search and discovery in the App Store.

There are more than 1.5 million apps, and it behooves Apple to make it easier for people to find the apps that are right for them. And if the company can do so in a way that's not easily replicated by its competitors, Apple will have a significant leg up on those competitors.