Imagine that you're searching for a restaurant or for a movie time on your iPhone, but instead of receiving a long list of links, you see thumbnail images for Web sites instead. Meet Do@ (doo-at) (download), a newly launched iPhone freebie that does just that.
With Do@, search results aren't just thumbnails for pages you have to load, they're active Web sites that you can enter, explore, and exit without losing the rest of those live site results.
Search begins with a query as usual, and when you start typing, the app supplies suggestions--not for common phrases, but for contextual categories to narrow your search. For example, type "Inception" and you'll get to pick from suggestions like "Inception @search," "@movies," "@Netflix," and so on. Type sushi and you'll see restaurant, recipe, and Amazon category types. The app launches with about 30 categories and more than 400 searchable Web apps.
There are all the usual social networking tie-ins like sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and via e-mail, and marking favorites. The app is notably rich as well, with tricks like being able to scrub through a filmstrip of visual search results, and scroll beyond a first page of results to a second, even third batch. The more you pick a site in your search results, the closer to the top of your results list you'll see it on subsequent searches (you can remove the app to downshift its importance in future attempts.) If your friends use Do@, their recommendations will also surface higher in your results queue.
Do@ also has its discovery and business angles in mind. App publishers, let's say Yelp, for instance, can choose if tapping a result will open the Yelp native app if you have it installed. Otherwise, Do@ serves up the HTML-based Web app by default. Do@ also intends to incorporate site promotions in the results stream.
Do@'s media and lifestyle focus is clear, as is its goal to revolutionize search. Unlike other apps that claim such a feat, Do@'s approach is actually innovative, interesting, and useful. That was our impression after the demo, at least, but we'll continue with real-world testing in the ensuing weeks.
There's still room for growth, as well. For example, we hope to see voice search enabled in future updates.
For all your friends with Android smartphones, Do@ plans to release a sister app for Android...sometime "in the near future."