Verizon Wireless will be using Chomp search technology in its revamped Verizon Apps, formerly known as V Cast, giving Chomp a big stage to show off its technology. Verizon is previewing its redesigned mobile app storefront, Verizon Apps, at its developer conference in Las Vegas this week.
It’s an extension of an existing relationship – Verizon has integrated Chomp to allow users to search for apps across multiple storefronts, including Android Market – but going forward, new Android devices will come preloaded with Chomp’s app search engine integrated into Verizon Apps and branded as Chomp.
The technology makes it easier to search for apps by category, such as “restaurant guides,” “kid’s games” or some other description, rather than the app’s name.
Going forward, Verizon customers will still get access to the Android Market on their Android phones, but the Verizon Apps storefront will include some premium apps not found in the Android Market. Chomp will power the search box, allowing customers to search apps that are only available through Verizon Apps.
It’s important for Chomp to be identified because it’s in the midst of building its consumer brand, says CEO Ben Keighran. “What Verizon gets out of it and customers is the best way to search and discover apps within the store,” he says.
Chomp had to go through what Keighran describes as a rigorous process before its technology was selected. Chomp’s research and engineering teams have been focused on the app search problem for a couple years now and developed algorithms that are specially designed for apps rather than Web pages.
Web search companies like Google are really good at Web search, he says, but Chomp started with a clean slate, building very specifically for mobile apps. “Everybody I know that wants to use Facebook on Android wants to use the Facebook app and not the website,” he says.
Verizon Wireless has been touting what it claims is a more open approach to the mobile web and apps, distancing itself from the old walled garden approach. Keighran says it’s clear to him that the company is succeeding in that endeavor. “I think that’s a huge change that’s happened,” he says, adding that he did not personally work with Verizon prior to the open format. “It’s just been great.”
As a startup that works around the clock, Chomp didn’t expect non-startups to be as accessible, but when Chomp engineers had questions in the middle of the night, someone from Verizon would still be available to reply, he says.
Keighran relocated from Sydney, Australia, to San Francisco in 2006 and built Bluepulse, a mobile social messaging application. He later got together with Cathy Edwards, CTO, to work on Chomp, which employs about 25. Chomp advisers include David Blei of Princeton and Don Metzler of the University of Southern California, as well as Kevin Rose and Ashton Kutcher.