Recent Apple behavior and changes hint that it's planning to launch its own search engine to compete with Google

apple showing signs for apple search rect Recovered 1

Apple seems to be gearing up to launch what we’re dubbing “Apple Search,” it’s own search engine to compete with Google.

Currently, Google reportedly pays Apple $2+ billion per year in order to be the default search engine on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS devices. That payment has come into question more recently as legal battles engulf both companies. Mainly, UK regulators are concerned that the deal limits the chance for other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuck Go to compete with the titan that Google is.

A new report by CoyWolf shows signs that Apple is gearing up to launch its own search engine are in the vast. As the report explains, Apple’s technology in the past few years with Siri, machine learning, and iCloud have all developed extensively, building the platform for what could be a search engine.

The first sign of such a launch comes from the iOS 14 beta. On the new betas, search results in spotlight are listed as “Siri Suggested Websites,”, and not Bing or Google results. The change indicates that Siri is doing the heavy lifting instead of the OS simply inputting the spotlight search inquiry into Google, or Bing itself.

Second, Apple updated its support page for AppleBot, the service that Siri and Spotlight Suggestions uses to crawl the web. The updated webpage is very similar to Google’s own SEO webpages, providing eerily similar information. As outlined in the report, here are the changes made:

Added how to verify traffic from Applebot

Expanded details on the Applebot user agent, including differences between its desktop and mobile version

Expanded robots.txt rules

Added a section stating that they don’t just crawl HTML, but also render pages similar to Google

Added a section on search rankings and the factors that affect how it ranks web search results

CoyWolf News

Following the changes, Jon Henshaw, the founder of CoyWof, found that AppleBot has been crawling his website daily, something he hadn’t noticed before.

applebot log files
AppleBot crawling

Lastly, Apple’s jobs page shows the company is looking for a vast number of applicants in the field of search involving Siri, ML, and iCloud. The benefits of an Apple search engine are long and would follow perfectly with a recent trend.

In 2019 Apple launched “Sign in with Apple,” an easy and private way for users to sign up to apps and websites via Apple. It was a direct shot at Facebook and Google which offers its users the ability to sign up using their respective accounts for almost every app and website that exists. Sign in with Apple is filled with privacy features from the ability for users to hide their name and email from the website by using a random email address.

Even this year with iOS 14, Apple is taking shots at Facebook and all apps by building in numerous privacy features such as limited tracking, clipboard access notification, and so much more. This recent strategy of tackling big privacy issues can easily be seen in Apple launching its own search engine, taking a direct shot at Google.

As CoyWolf perfectly explains, Apple’s own search engine, coupled in the companies ability to seamlessly integrate apps and services together would mean a very unified and streamlined front-end user experience.

A search engine from Apple will likely look and function slightly different from modern search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. That’s because Apple historically likes to do things differently, and because having its search engine will serve a different purpose than showing ads and data mining.

Based on Apple’s numerous search engineer job descriptions, and the continued consolidation of web and app results in Spotlight Search, an Apple search engine will likely function as a highly personalized data hub. It will be similar to Google Assistant on Android, but different since it (initially) won’t have ads, will be completely private, and have significantly deeper integrations with the OS.

One can imagine getting easy buy-in from users if they benefit from privacy, coupled with the seamless integration and personalization from their iCloud data. Apple can leverage AI and ML to deliver search results based on their email, messages, maps, events, reminders, notes, photos, files, contacts, music, news, TV shows and movies, third-party apps, documents, and more. And they can do it without ads and with the promise of real data privacy.

CoyWolf News

Something like this is likely to be revealed at WWDC, a conference based around software and developers. Although, it could also be revealed as an Apple service in an event similar to the one held in March of 2019 where Apple announced Apple News+, Apple Arcade, Apple Card, and Apple TV+.

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Sami started falling in love with Apple in 2010 with the iPhone 4S. As a registered developer, he deeply admires the world of Apple. Sami is an aspiring journalist, writer, and actor. He also has devoted his life to sharing his passion and knowledge with others around the world.