Mobile Search: A Force to be Reckoned With!


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This invited talk was given at ECIR 2013 Industry Day in Moscow on the 27th March 2013. The talk was on the topic of mobile search, a research area I've devoted the past 10 years to.

Recently the world has witnessed a revolution in terms of mobile web and mobile search usage. Mobile phones, once deemed as simple communications devices, now provide mobile users with access to a wealth of online content, anytime and anywhere. In 2012, the increasing presence of mobile devices caused desktop search to decline for the first time ever; a level of growth that simply cannot be ignored.

My aim is to take a nostalgic look back at the simple beginnings of mobile search and discuss how, why and in what ways mobile search has evolved over the past 8-10 years. I highlight patterns of mobile search usage and show how they not only differ from desktop search, but they are continually evolving. And instead of taking a single, data-centric viewpoint of mobile search, I also discuss user-centric studies, highlighting the unique needs, intents and motivations of mobile searchers. Finally, I share some thoughts about where mobile search is heading, the challenges that lie ahead and discuss some of the factors that I think are important when it comes to enriching the future search experiences of mobile users.

Karen Church
Research Scientist
Telefonica Research

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Mobile Search: A Force to be Reckoned With!

  1. 1. MOBILE SEARCH a force to be reckoned with! Karen Church, Telefonica Research ECIR Industry Day, 27th March 2013
  4. 4. karen churchresearch scientisttelefonica research
  5. 5. Mobile Search
  6. 6. 2003Nokia 6600Internet-enabled
  7. 7. wap/wml<?xml version="1.0"?><!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.1//EN" "" ><wml> <card id="main" title="First Card"> <p mode="wrap">This is a sample WML page.</p> </card></wml>
  8. 8. mobileportals
  9. 9. 2005 Google xHTML SearchImage source:
  10. 10. 2013 Apple iPhone 5Image source:
  11. 11. 2013Apps, HTML5 andFuture of Browsers
  12. 12. 2013Google Now
  13. 13. mobileis unique
  14. 14. ≠  
  15. 15. Mobile phones are “personal”Image source:
  16. 16. Context impacts on mobile behaviors
  17. 17. Mobile users tend to seek “fresh” info
  18. 18. Anytime,anywhereaccessImage source:
  19. 19. Always within arms reach
  20. 20. Always within arms reach 50% of time phone is within arms reach 90% of time phone is within rooms reach - Dey et al. UbiComp 2011
  21. 21. mobile isinherentlychallenging
  22. 22. Lots and lots and lots of phone types
  23. 23. Tiny screens Image source:
  24. 24. Tedious input
  25. 25. multitasking +divided attention
  26. 26. How big ismobile?
  27. 27. 7 billionpeople in the world
  28. 28. 6 billionmobile phone subscriptions
  29. 29. 1 billionsmartphone users
  30. 30. Global Mobile Traffic as % of Total Internet Traffic 14 12 % of Internet Traffic 10 8 6 4 2 0 2009 2010 2011 2012 - 2012 Internet Trends Report:
  31. 31. Global Mobile Traffic as % of Total Internet Traffic 14 12 % of Internet Traffic 10 8 6 1% 4 2 0 2009 2010 2011 2012 - 2012 Internet Trends Report:
  32. 32. Global Mobile Traffic as % of Total Internet Traffic 14 13% 12 % of Internet Traffic 10 8 6 1% 4 2 0 2009 2010 2011 2012 - 2012 Internet Trends Report:
  33. 33. “ By 2015 more end users will access the Internet through a mobile device “ than a PC. - International Data Corporation (IDC) Report 2012
  34. 34. Search remainsmain gateway to online content
  35. 35. 18 billion Search queries submitted Dec 2012 - comScore Dec 2012
  36. 36. 25%of queries come from mobile devices - Covario, Mar 2013,
  37. 37. 1in 3queries will come from a mobile device (by end of 2013) - Covario, Mar 2013,
  38. 38. Studies of Mobile WebTrends & Behaviors
  39. 39. How, what, where, when andwhy do mobile users searchand browse the Web?
  40. 40. What are the underlyinginformation needs of mobileusers?
  41. 41. What types of applicationswould enrich their onlineexperiences?
  42. 42. Data-centric
  43. 43. Data-centric Log analysis studies Real-life usage, large-scale Very good at HOW & WHAT
  44. 44. User-centric
  45. 45. User-centric Diary studies, surveys, interviews, prototype usage Understanding perceptions and intent Tend to be smaller-scale Very good at answering WHY
  46. 46. How?do mobile users search
  47. 47. M. Kamvar and S. Baluja. A large scale study of wireless searchbehavior: Google mobile search. In Proceedings of CHI’06,pages 701–709. ACM, 2006. [Google 2006]M. Kamvar and S. Baluja. Deciphering trends in mobile search.Computer, 40(8):58–62, 2007. [Google 2007]M. Kamvar, M. Kellar, R. Patel, and Y. Xu. Computers and iphonesand mobile phones, oh my!: a logs-based comparison of searchusers on different devices. In Proceedings of WWW’09, pages801–810. ACM, 2009. [Google 2009]
  48. 48. R. Baeza-Yates and J. Velasco. A study of mobile search queriesin japan. In Query Log Analysis: Social and TechnologicalChallenges, WWW 2007 Workshop, 2007. [Yahoo 2007]J. Yi, F. Maghoul, and J. Pedersen. Deciphering mobile searchpatterns: a study of yahoo! mobile search queries. InProceedings of WWW’08, ACM, 2008 [Yahoo 2008]J. Yi and F. Maghoul. Mobile Search Pattern Evolution: The Trendand the Impact of Voice Queries. In Proceedings of WWW’11,ACM, 2011
  49. 49. Mobile Operator StudiesK. Church, B. Smyth, P. Cotter, and K. Bradley. Mobile informationaccess: A study of emerging search behavior on the mobileinternet. ACM Transactions on the Web, 1(1):4, 2007. [MobileOperator 2007]K. Church, B. Smyth, K. Bradley, and P. Cotter. A large scale studyof european mobile search behaviour. In Proceedings ofMobileHCI ’08, pages 13–22. ACM, 2008. [Mobile Operator 2008]M. Vojnovic. On mobile user behaviour patterns. In InternationalZurich Seminar on Communications. IEEE CommunicationsSociety, 2008.K. Church. and N. Oliver Understanding Portal-Based MobileSearch: a Case Study. In 2nd Research in the Large Workshop(held as part of UbiComp ’11)
  50. 50. Mobile queries are short….but they’re growing
  51. 51. Search engine / Where Dataset From Length Lengthpublication (Terms) (Chars)Google (2006) U.S 2005 2.3 15.5Mobile Europe 2005 2.1 13Operator (2007)Yahoo! (2007) Japan 2006 2.3 17.9Mobile operator Europe 2006 2.2 13.8(2008)Google (2007) U.S. 2007 2.6 16.8Yahoo! (2008) U.S. and Int 2007 2.4 (US) 13.7 (US) 2.1 (Int) 13.6 (Int)Google (2009) U.S. 2008 2.9 (iPhone) 18.2 (iPhone) 2.4 (Mobile) 15.9 (Mobile)
  52. 52. iPhone search behavior ismore similar to desktopsearch behavior than othermobile phones!
  53. 53. Mobile queries are lessdiverse than desktop queries but…..this is changing and device type plays a role
  54. 54. Query diversity in mobile search Search Dataset Top Query Top 1000 engine / From Queries publication Google (2006) 2005 1.2% 22% Google (2007) 2007 0.8% 17% Google (2009) 2008 3.8% 33% (Mobile) (Mobile) 0.3% 13% (iPhone) (iPhone)
  55. 55. Clicks have been used as ameasure of search success Less success in mobile
  56. 56. Evolving click patterns Search engine / Dataset Queries leading publication From to Clicks Google (2006) 2005 < 10% Mobile Operator 2006 <10% (2008) Google (2007) 2007 > 50%
  57. 57. Mobile users oftenseek direct answersto their queries
  58. 58. Direct answers in search results willlikely impact on click patterns
  59. 59. What?do mobile users search for
  60. 60. Adult-related searchesremains prevalent
  61. 61. >50%of mobile queries related to adult content Church et al. Mobile information access: A study of emerging search behavior on the mobile internet. ACM Transactions on the Web, 1(1):4, 2007.
  62. 62. Is decreasing….Less adult-related searches on iPhones
  63. 63. In early days, querieswith local intent <5%
  64. 64. Only 1.7% more local queriesissued from iPhone than from acomputer - Kamvar et al. WWW 2009
  65. 65. “ mobile users will continue to search for a higher proportion of local content than computer users, but may look for this information within “ an application that can provide a richer experience than what a browser can provide. - Kamvar et al. WWW 2009
  66. 66. E.g. Mobile Maps Applications
  67. 67. 50%of Google’s mobile search is LOCAL!
  68. 68. 70% of mobile searches leadto action within 1 hour! 70% of desktop searches lead to action within 1 month -Eloqua marketing report
  69. 69. Why?do mobile users use mobile search
  70. 70. Motivators of mobile web usage Time Awareness Curiosity Management Social Social Diversion Connection Avoidance - Taylor et al. A framework for understanding mobile internet motivations and behaviors. In Proceedings ofCHI08 extended abstracts, ACM (2008)
  71. 71. Motivators of mobile web usage Time Awareness Curiosity Management Social Social Diversion Connection Avoidance - Taylor et al. A framework for understanding mobile internet motivations and behaviors. In Proceedings ofCHI08 extended abstracts, ACM (2008)
  72. 72. Diary Study of Mobile Internet Use - Church & Oliver, Understanding Mobile Web and Mobile Search Use in Today’s Dynamic Mobile Landscape, MobileHCI2011
  73. 73. Diary Study of Mobile Internet Use Why mobile users access the Web? Their motivations and intents of use In what situations or contexts? What’s lacking? - Church & Oliver, Understanding Mobile Web and Mobile Search Use in Today’s Dynamic Mobile Landscape, MobileHCI2011
  74. 74. Motivations of web usageClassified participant motivations according to the listof motivations generated by Taylor et al. 2008 andfound very similar resultsMotivation # Diary Entries % Diary EntriesAwareness 401 48Time management 205 24.6Curiosity 40 4.8Diversion 106 12.7Social Connection 80 9.6Social Avoidance 3 0.4Total 835 100%
  75. 75. A closer look atmobile search
  76. 76. High % of trivia and fact-checking queries as well asinformational searches
  77. 77. Majority of these are heavily influenced by conversations
  78. 78. And curiosity
  79. 79. As well as settlingfriendly bets /Proving someonewrong!
  80. 80. Some examples from ourparticipants as to whatconversations and interactionslead them to use mobilesearch…
  81. 81. “Having lunch with colleagues and wecouldn’t remember the character name of Graham Norton in Father Ted”
  82. 82. “I was looking for the history of the dance move The Moonwalk. I was intending to find a wikipedia page about it, and thiswas the first site that came up, I found the information I was looking for and proved my brother wrong about a statement he had made. We were having a discussionas to whether the moonwalk was originallya dance move or a mime theatre action”
  83. 83. “The name of actor based on a known film they had appeared in. I was discussing an actor in random conversation. I was in a bar with friendssocializing and I used search to fill in gaps in memory”
  84. 84. Where?do mobile users use mobile search
  85. 85. 70% of mobile Web access is@home or @work - Church & Oliver, Understanding Mobile Web and Mobile Search Use in Today’s Dynamic Mobile Landscape, MobileHCI2011
  86. 86. 66% while watching TV
  87. 87. When?do mobile users search
  88. 88. Tablet Desktop MobileMorning During the Day Night time
  89. 89. Mobile search is “bursty”: usedat random intervals tosatisfy information needs thatarise at that particular moment
  90. 90. Who?do mobile users search with
  91. 91. 65 %Mobile searches take place in presenceof other people -  Church & Oliver, Understanding mobile web and mobile search use in today’s dynamic mobile Landscape, MobileHCI 2011
  92. 92. 67 %searches conducted while in transitwere social, compared to only 53%while stationary - Teevan et al.. Understanding the importance of location, time and people in mobile local search behavior. MobileHCI 2011
  93. 93. how, why and in what situationsdo people use mobile search insocial settings for sharedinformation needs? -  Church et al, I Wanted to Settle a Bet! - Understanding Why and How People Use Mobile Search in Social Settings, MobileHCI 2012
  94. 94. Mobileinformationneeds
  95. 95. What are the information needsof mobile users and how arethose needs addressed?
  96. 96. understanding mobile needs using SMS
  97. 97. Studies of mobile information needsSohn, T., Li, K. A., Griswold, W. G., and Hollan,J. D. A diary study ofmobile information needs. In Proceedings of CHI08, ACM (2008)Church, K and Smyth, B. (2009) Understanding the intent behindmobile information needs. In Proceedings of the 14thInternational Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI ’09)Church, K., Cherubini, M., Neumann, J. and Oliver N. (2011)Understanding Mobile Information Needs on a Large-Scale:Tools, Experiences and Challenges. In 2nd Research in the LargeWorkshop (held as part of UbiComp ’11Heimonen, T. Information needs and practices of active mobileinternet users. In Proceedings of Mobility 09, ACM (2009)
  98. 98. Mobilesearch UIs and apps
  99. 99. FaThumb - Karlson et al. FaThumb: A Facet-based interface for mobile search, CHI 2006
  100. 100. Mobile Findex Heimonen, T. (2012). How do users search the mobile Web with a clustering interface? A longitudinal study. International Journal of Mobile Human–Computer Interaction, 4(3), 44–66
  101. 101. Questions not Answers -  Jones et al, Questions not answers: a novel mobile search technique, CHI 2007 - Arter et al. Incidental information and mobile search, MobileHCI 2007
  102. 102. SocialSearchBrowser (SSB)- Church et al. SocialSearchBrowser: A Novel Mobile Search and Information Discovery Tool, IUI 2009
  103. 103. Trajectory-aware mobile search - Amini et al. Trajectory-aware mobile search, CHI 2012
  104. 104. Future Work •  Analysis of more detailed search data could reveal more interesting results and more concrete design implications for future mobile search services: –  Temporal patterns: by identifying certain behaviours based on time-of-day or day-of-week then certain mobile search requests could be preempted and quick access to answers could be provided. –  User demographics: it’s likely that search patterns differ based on differ user demographics, e.g. gender. –  If we had access to location information we could study the impact of location in mobile search/mobile usersChallenges & Open Q’s
  105. 105. Mobile doesn’t always mean mobile!
  106. 106. Understanding truly mobile vs.using mobile in non-mobilecontexts?Exploring casual mobileinformation access vs. need toknow information access?
  107. 107. Mobile !=smartphone
  108. 108. The mobile phone will be the firstpoint of contact to onlinecontent for some usersHow do we make sure thatsearch and information accessexperiences for feature phoneusers are enriching?
  109. 109. Mobile phoneuse is not alwayssolitary!
  110. 110. Understanding social contextand how it influences mobilebehaviorsExploring social mobile servicesand social mobile interactions
  111. 111. Currently mobile =watered downversion of the Web
  112. 112. Mobile is different.How can we exploit thosedifferences?How can we make online mobileexperiences more actionable?
  113. 113. I love mobile but it’snot the end!
  114. 114. We’ve moved from desktop totablet to mobile. We’ll haveaccess in our cars, on our TVs…What is next and what newbehaviors, interactions andneeds will we have to support?
  116. 116. thank you! Qs? Karen Church @karenchurchImages from: Flickr (or where acknowledge) – others from stock.xchng
  117. 117. usefulresources
  118. 118. More related research papers•  Cui, Y., and Roto, V. How people use the web on mobile devices. In Proceeding of WWW 08, ACM (2008)•  Hinze, A. M., Chang, C., and Nichols, D. M. Contextual queries express mobile information needs. In Proceedings of MobileHCI 10, ACM (2010)•  Kaikkonen, A. Full or tailored mobile web- where and how do people browse on their mobiles? In Proceedings of Mobility08, ACM (2008)•  Lee, I., Kim, J., and Kim, J. Use contexts for the mobile internet: A longitudinal study monitoring actual use of mobile internet services. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction 18, 3 (2005)•  Nylander, S., Lundquist, T., and Brannstrom, A. At home and with computer access: why and where people use cell phones to access the internet. In Proceedings of CHI09, ACM (2009)
  119. 119. More related research papers•  Chua, A. Y. K., Balkunje, R. S., and Goh, D.H.-L. Fulfilling mobile information needs: a study on the use of mobile phones. In Proceedings of ICUIMC 11, ACM (2011)•  Hinman, R., Spasojevic, M., and Isomursu, P. They call it surfing for a reason: identifying mobile internet needs through pc internet deprivation. In Proceedings of CHI 08 extended abstracts, CHI 08, ACM (2008)•  A. Amin, S. Townsend, J. Ossenbruggen, and L. Hardman. Fancy a drink in canary wharf?: A user study on location- based mobile search. In Proceedings of INTERACT ’09:, pages 736–749. Springer-Verlag, 2009.•  C. Tossell, P. Kortum, A. Rahmati, C. Shepard, and L. Zhong. Characterizing web use on smartphones. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI ’12, pages 2769–2778. ACM, 2012