Today we are kicking off with a new look and a new series of alternative search engine iPhone and iPad app reviews and road tests with , a mobile search app available for both the iPhone and the iPad that takes a unique approach to searching for business related information.
Why “alternative?” Because that’s where the excitement and the innovation is! Sure, our smartphone devices present us with three whole choices — Safari / Google, with Bing and Yahoo! (GBY) available in your ‘Settings’. However, our requirement (even demand) for more personal and precise search services and results on our personal mobile devices opens the door for dozens of alternative search engines to make their mark — and gain market share.
That takes us to Biznar, a serious and comprehensive business search engine developed by Deep Web Technologies that uses a technique known as Federated Search to deliver results that GBY do not. (Biznar also has a sister app Mednar, which specializes in medical search.) More about the company and its mobile strategy in the companion post.
Deep Web Technologies has built a reputation as the “researcher’s choice” for its advanced information discovery tools, and I concur. As I stated in the press release when their App was released in November of 2011: “For business and medical research, Deep Web Technologies has selected just the right approach for their Biznar and Mednar Apps: advanced Federated Search.”
Why is this approach significant? Because Biznar takes a different tack than crawling and indexing the Web. That’s a good idea since the Web includes good and bad source material, old and new articles, legitimate and not so legitimate scholarship and a whole lot of marketing — all of it warehoused for some period of time by the time your search query comes along.
On the (mobile) mark
Biznar has preselected a corpus of around 70 high-quality business sources and searches them all in real-time the moment that you launch your query. These sources include leading information destinations such as ResourceShelf and MarketResearch.com and Fortune, as well as Deep Web Technologies partners APA PsycARTICLES and APA PsycBOOKS.
In some cases the results may take you to a site that requires registration or subscriptions), so it’s up to you to decide if you want to pursue that information in greater detail. The main point: these are 70 top-notch sources sure to provide results you can appreciate — a far cry from what is available if you conduct your search using GBY.
Moreover, biznar.com— the website that you can pull up in your mobile browser —gives you the freedom to pick and choose among the sources. If there is a source that you don’t want included in your search, you can simply deselect it from the list. This is not a feature currently available on Biznar’s mobile app, but you do have the option to suggest a new source you think should be added to the corpus via the ‘Contact Us’ page. What’s more, you will receive a personal reply.
As I mentioned, Biznar is real-time, a capability that allows it to deliver genuinely relevant and useful results. In practice this guarantees that your query will fetch the freshest results — even if one of the sources had a brand new article added to it just minutes (or milliseconds) before you submitted your search query. So, this is indeed “advanced federated search.” It’s real-time federated search of a numerous high quality sources, and who wouldn’t want that?
The test drive
Once you have downloaded the Biznar app onto your iPhone or iPad and launched your first search, you will notice that you are immediately presented with two choices. Specifically, the app will start off by asking you if you want to look at the very first results returned to it, or if your would rather wait for a synthesis of all possible responses.
I find that the additional time needed for all 70+ sources to return results is well worth the slightly longer wait, so I suggest just pressing the black “Display New Results Now” button every time. (Should DWT just drop the red bar altogether — I wonder?)
Additionally, there is a gauge in your ‘Settings’ when you select the Biznar App which allows you to select the precise time the first batch of results are fetched. Again, simplify your life by setting it in the middle and forgetting it.
Search query: Absinthe
For my road test I chose the keyword “Absinthe,” which regular readers will know is an inside joke with me and my own avatar over at my new consulting business ap(p)tly named Appaholics Anonymous.
Absinthe can actually mean many things. It’s a drink, a band, a jailbreak software and even a Las Vegas show. But a quick search on my iPhone 4S using Safari / Google returned seven shopping related sites within the first 10 results! Hardly useful for a serious business person.
The same search with the Biznar app on my iPhone produced a mixed-bag of results. There were good business articles from Forbes and Financial Times, several Wikipedia results (not surprising given the query), a broken link, some pages that required an account or app to view, some frozen Google results, and one fleeting case of nasty spam. But when I performed a web search for “Absinthe” using the internet website www.biznar.com I was delivered results all neatly sorted by topic, publication, date, etc, with a host of ways to rank order and filter them but on my mobile phone with its small screen these great results were too detailed to keep zooming in and out.
This brings me to a wider observation I’d like to make about many search engine apps. Some search engine companies develop mobile optimized Web apps made for mobile devices, and possibly a native iOS iPhone app as well. Several companies have gone on to make their apps universal, which often just means releasing a larger screen version of the iPhone App. Making a truly stellar iPad app is a tall order for many smaller companies.
Given the search results from the road test, I think the company should consider making the current version of its iPhone app “Beta” x.x, and allow their growing community of app users to be honorary beta testers. It’s crowd-sourcing at its best because Biznar users are serious about business and well equipped to offer valuable input on bugs to fix, as well as suggest savvy new features that would make this finished product even better. A crowd-sourcing approach could also forestall negative reviews on the Apple App Store. What better way to arrive at the ultimate goal of having the capabilities to conduct a quick, easy Biznar search with a limited feature set made for the task?
Bigger is better
That leaves us with the iPad app. When I do a quick search on my iPhone I expect a stripped down version of the full Biznar website. Not so when I’m surfing on a tablet device. When I pull out my iPad I’m usually looking for a slick touch and swipe version of the online website. (Of course, pulling up a medium-sized view of the website is easily done using the browser.)
So is there a compelling argument for a company like Deep Web Technologies to undertake what would likely be a very expensive and intricate effort to develop an iPad app? Is there a distinct difference that would merit such a sizable investment of time and resources?
I went back to my iPad, switching back and forth from the full-size website site in my browser and the iPad app version. For sure, the print appears smaller on the full site, but in both cases the search results themselves are identical iPad sized pages.
If I was Biznar, I would put a notice and link on the opening splash page of their iPad app to read, “To take full advantage of our advanced technology, please click here to go to our online website.” They should say this right up front, not in a subpage. Secondly, the larger screen size of the iPad would allow for in app settings to allow for more features such as deselecting sources (like Wikipedia in my example) and some sorting, perhaps even swiping to delete unwanted search results.
Serious about business search using a mobile device? I tested three options: Safari with GBY, the Biznar apps, and the Biznar internet site on both my iPhone and my iPad. Predictably, Safari/Google misses the mark for a business researcher. Ultimately serious research will continue to be done with www.biznar.com on a PC or Mac or a decent laptop. So why have an app? Because professionals also need access to Biznar’s search technology whether they are on the go (truly mobile), or just multi-tasking. The Biznar iPad app will continue to coexist with the iPad sized website, but as feature and filters are added to the app it will no doubt grow into a better fit for the device. Personally, I like the idea of a very simple iPhone version. When you only have your mobile phone to search for quality business results, that’s exactly what you want. Simplicity. In the case of the iPhone app I would stick to the Beta and tweak, tweak, tweak until the testers get 20 solid results consistently.
What do you think? Download the free Biznar and Mednar apps to your iPhone and/or iPad and road test Biznar.com / Mednar.com across all your devices (including PC), and please come back and share your thoughts in the comment section.
Next in the series: Hipmunk – the travel search app. Download it now so you’re ready for my next road test! You may want to start a folder of these apps and label it “Search Engines.”
Editor’s note: The mission to discover and promote every alternative Internet search engine in the world took Charles three years and over 4,000 posts to accomplish. Now he’s back with his pick of mobile search engine Apps. If you have a mobile search app or service, or would like to suggest a company for this series, then please reach out to Charles (firstname.lastname@example.org). Through Appaholics Anonymous (AA) Charles hosts the informal and formal sharing of the very best Apps he has discovered in the Apple App Store, and encourages discussion around the gems that other ‘Appaholics’ have found. What’s the coolest app you have? Let Charles know and you just might end up an honorary member of Appaholics Anonymous!
- THE Future of Mobile; Authorities Weigh In On Mobile Megatrends (mobilegroove.com)
- Federated Search: A Definition (arnoldit.com)