Google extends search tendrils to cover data in apps

And allows app 'streaming' to test services out

Google has expanded its search feelers into content stored inside apps.

Previously, the search engine giant only indexed content that matched content on the broader internet, but increasingly information is contained only within apps themselves, meaning that it is not broadly accessible.

The company has been experimenting with in-app search for two years but in a blog post, engineering manager Jennifer Lin said it was officially extending that to content solely within apps.

She named a number of nine initial "partners" that Google is working with: Chimani, Daily Horoscope, Gormey, Hotel Tonight, My Horoscope, New York Subway, Visual Anatomy Free, Useful Knots, and Weather. It plans to expand the list soon.

At the same time, the company is also rolling out the ability to "stream" apps – seemingly the same small number that are working with the in-app search – so you can find content and experience the app itself without having to download it.

That streaming takes place within Google's search. If you search for a particular term – say "hotel in New York" – and one of the search results is from Hotel Tonight, for example, a "Stream" button will apparently appear next to the result that, if you click it, will open up a virtualized version of the app.

The service doesn't appear to be live yet and Lin notes that it uses "a new cloud-based technology that we're currently experimenting with."

It is a natural step forward for the company, whose main goal – and business model – is built on indexing as much information as possible and making it readily accessible through its search tools.

Originally, most apps for mobile phones were simply versions of a website packaged to work well on your phone. But increasingly apps are standalone products, and websites are often used solely as promotion for the downloadable app. That leaves a huge amount of useful information off the public internet and so out of Google's reach.

The draw for an app developer to give Google access to its internal information is obvious – they will get more viewers and hence more customers. But it will be interesting to see how scalable the program is and whether app developers need to change how they code their products to work with Google.

Overall though, this may be a solution to what some technologists have warned is an increasing amount of "walled garden" content. Just this week, Google announced that Facebook was now allowing it to index content within the social network's system. ®

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