Algolia gives your app mobile search super powers

Contextual search may not be the most exciting aspect of mobile application development, but it is a highly essential service and extremely difficult to implement.

June 12, 2017 at 12:00 AM Coordinated Universal Time

You use it every single day, on virtually every one of your connected devices. It is a function so ubiquitous that it's easy to take it for granted.

That function is search.

From an end-user perspective, all of the applications we use on our mobile devices are extremely dependent on search engine technology. Without search, none of that back-end data is easily accessible.

The major application developers who are household names -- Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and Netflix -- have all built complex infrastructure to support the kind of highly transactional applications that run their various lines of business and to present data to the end-user in a highly contextual and useful manner.

All of these have written their own search engines and to these companies, it is their proprietary secret sauce. Without it, their data has no value; naturally, they are highly protective of it.

Third-parties that want to create their own mobile apps and searchable sites with rich user experiences don't necessarily have the resources to build something like the visual contextual search that a Netflix has, let alone a Google.

And while it is possible to utilize something like a Google or a Bing to search your own data, this often involves long and complex web-spidering types of operations, which is not something that is necessarily palatable to a corporation that wants to keep its data entirely private.

San Francisco, Calif.-based Algolia, which was founded in 2012 and has recently completed $53 million in Series B funding by venture capital firm Accel, is looking to change all of that, by giving Google-like hosted search engine superpowers to anyone who wants to build apps to take advantage of it.

Algolia provides rich developer APIs and plugins for popular programming frameworks, which allow mobile app creators to create deep search UXes with only a small amount of added code.

The company currently powers search in over 8,000 sites and executes more than 25 billion queries a month. Customers include Medium, Periscope, Twitch, Livestream, and DigitalOcean.

The beauty of Algolia is that as it is provided as SaaS -- without requiring any on-premises or even dedicated IaaS-based cloud infrastructure to power search in your app.

Algolia's own data centers, which have edge connectivity with over 40 points of presence from around the world, provide the fast connectivity and distributed search capability that mobile apps require and the quick response times end-users expect.

Unlike spidering or web crawling techniques used by other search engines, Algolia simply builds an off-site index of your data and presents the UX.

In addition to the web, Algolia's search engine supports Android and iOS as mobile platforms and supports Python, Ruby, PHP, JavaScript, Java, Go, C#, and Scala as programming languages.

Pricing for Algolia's service is offered in tiers depending on the volume of monthly transactions. A free tier with 10,000 indexed records and 100,000 monthly searches is available to any app developer, whereas paid plans start at $50 a month at 1 million queries and up to $900 a month for 50 million queries with added analytics tools.