It seems the Ottocat is out of the bag. Because in a recently published report, the technology behind Apple’s App Store “Explore” tab is indeed declared as originating from Ottocat, a startup specializing in search technology which Cupertino acquired back in 2013.
The news comes from TechCrunch, which, in a recent article, explains that Ottocat’s technology likely constitutes the foundations of the App Store’s Explore interface and algorithms. On the App Store, Explore, which was announced in June last year, allows users to find iOS apps of significant interest; apps which are “popular near me” are highlighted and separated into categories inside of the Explore tab, allowing users to more easily discover software which has gained local, rather than worldwide, prominence.
In the report, TechCrunch explains that Ottocat:
had developed a system to organize and surface apps on the app store based on “nested” categories of increasing specificity. A version of that system now powers the “explore” tab in Apple’s App Store.
The article adds that Ottocat’s intention was to use subcategories as the foundation of its search system, rather than keywords (which, as we all know, don’t always facilitate accurate App Store searching). This, indeed, seems to have been incorporated within the Explore tab on iOS, which also uses subcategories in order to guide its user towards the kind of app they’re looking for.
I have to say, however, that while Apple’s Ottocat-powered Explore tab sounds great in theory, in practice I’ve had rather a different experience. Perhaps it’s my own location that’s the problem (which is Cheshire, England, rather than the U.S. of A.), but the App Store’s Explore interface is decidedly unpopulated with iOS apps which are listed as being “popular near me.” Perhaps the Explore tab’s international rollout is a little behind, though.
It’ll be interesting to see how Apple continues to develop Explore’s functionality. In the meantime, see: For the first time, the entire ‘Star Wars’ series will be available in HD on iTunes, Thanks to Pharrell Williams, the Apple Watch has made its reality TV debut, and Best new apps of the week: Adobe Slate and Todoist 10.