Taptu has launched. The mobile URL is taptu.mobi. You’ve probably heard about it, Vero and the rest of team have been doing a great job of creating buzz. In case you missed the previews by beta testers like Msearchgroove and SymbianGuru, Taptu in a nutshell is a new mobile search engine specializing in music search (songs, lyrics, artists, video and audio clips). Their tagline is “A new kind of search engine for mobile phones which allows you to search and find really useful content in 10 clicks or less”.
I had excellent results searching for relatively obscure artists. I tried a searching for half a dozen lesser know musicians spanning the last 50 years (Wynonie Harris, Harvey Scales, Tracy Nelson, Deanna Bogart, The Parrots and The 88) and Taptu found all of them except The Parrots, a new Japanese Beatles cover band. The results typically include MP3 music and 3gpp video clips, photos and if they exist; the artists homepage, MySpace page, Wikipedia entry and album cover art. Image thumbnails are featured right on the results page and each result is labeled as song, video. etc. which helps if you are looking for a particular kind of content. Taptu has really got pop music search down. I can’t think of an other service on the web, let alone the mobile web, that does such consistently good job of finding content by and about musical artists.
Taptu’s innovation is something they call “social-assisted search”. As I understand it, their server-side code first determines the general category of a query; is the user looking for music, sports, news, a map or something else? Once the category is determined the search is made against an index that only contains results from that category. The social part is that the sources for the category indexes are hand picked by humans. So the music crawler is programed to restrict it’s efforts to sites known contain data relevant to music searches like MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia and an MP3 download site.
Taptu plans to expand by adding additional indexes dedicated to other categories of search including movies, travel, sport, games, and the mobile web.
The site uses adaption to deliver appropriate content to almost all mobile browsers and also offers a settings page where you can further tweak image and page size to your liking. I found the defaults worked well on my phones. The adaptation seems to be a combination of homegrown resizing and reformatting plus mashups. For example, it looks like Taptu resizes images and converts MySpace Flash videos to 3gpp themselves but turn to mobile web site Wapedia.com for Wikipedia results and Google’s transcoder to mobilize MySpace and other web pages.
I’m impressed with both the quality of Taptu’s search results and the mobile site’s very good usability on even the less capable mobile browsers. I’m looking forward to seeing them extend their unique approach beyond music to additional topic areas.