Quixey’s Keyword-Based Facebook App Search Engine Could Become a Powerful Discovery Tool

Keyword-based app search engine startup Quixey added the ability to find Facebook apps this week. Users can now type in what they’re trying to do, such as “promote my band” and receive recommendations of apps across mobile operating systems, browsers, social networks, and the web. Quixey does a satisfactory job, returning generally relevant results, but missing some of the most popular Facebook apps when users search for their function.

Although Facebook has social connections driving app discovery, competition is fierce and communication channels aren’t as strong as they used to be. Developers typically spend heavily on ads to market themselves. With time to improve, Quixey could help solve this problem by helping users find reputable apps, helping apps gain users, and making Facebook a more attractive development platform.

Currently, if someone wants to search for a Facebook app, they only have two options:

  • a strict name search through Facebook’s internal search engine that doesn’t help if you don’t know exactly what app you’re looking for
  • a web search engine search that mixes websites into the app results

Facebook used to have a category-sorted App Directory, but it removed all links to it a long time ago and disabled it completely last month. AppBistro provides a Page tab application directory, but it doesn’t list user apps. A similar discovery problem exists on mobile which is being tackled by Chomp, Appsfire, and Appolicious, but there wasn’t a solid solution for finding Facebook apps until now.

Quixey includes a very wide breadth of platforms in its app search results, including iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, FireFox add-ons, Mac, PC, Web, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn. When users conduct a search, they’ll see results from across platforms by default, but they can refine them to specific ones. Uses can also refine to only view apps mentioned in certain publications such as TechCrunch, or that integrate with certain services such as Flickr.

Results pages includes an in-line description, price, preview of a feature breakdown, star rating, and a list of platforms the app is available on. Clicking through a result reveals a full description and feature list, articles and tweets linking to the app, and videos. These signals make it easy to get a sense of the public opinion on an app before one tries it.

Quixey only launched a few months ago, so some kinks are too be expected. Still, result ranking is still somewhat inaccurate, with hardly used apps appearing above some of the most popular Facebook apps for common needs. In some cases, such as when searching for “promote my band” or “Facebook music”, you’ll get the second-most popular app for that use case ranked first, but the most popular app won’t be anywhere in the results despite being indexed by Quixey.

For instance, RootMusic’s BandPage doesn’t appear when searching “promote my band” or “Facebook music”, but less popular competitor ReverbNation’s Band Profile does. Same goes for a “professional networking” search returning Monster.com’s new BeKnown app, but not vertical leader BranchOut.

Results could be made even more compelling with the addition of Facepiles that show if friends have used the app. Quixey would need developers to authorize the plugins themselves, but these social recommendations could help users sort through lots of unknown apps and trust what they choose to install.

Users and developers should both be excited about this new app discovery channel. It will make finding utility apps for things with generic names such as sharing photos or keeping calendars much easier, and give developers added incentive to maintain a high user experience that drives positive reviews. If it works out its result ranking algorithm and becomes more popular, Quixey could drive overall app usage, increasing time on site for Facebook and making developers money.

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