Ranking Pages at An Apple Search Engine?

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More Signs of Search After Applebot

Back in May, I wrote the post Here Comes Applebot: The Start of Apple Web Search? where I talked about Apple’s Web crawling search robot and their acquisition of Topsy, and the patents that came with the purchase of that company.

A couple more of the patent applications assigned to Apple in that deal were granted as patents recently, one a few weeks ago, and another this week at the USPTO, and they are worth a look, because of how they mention ranking of web pages, and tweets and blog posts, and reviews based upon citations, which reminded me a little of PageRank, which is a link citation ranking signal which differentiated Google from other search engines in the 1990s. The use of the word citation in the patent involves a slightly different definition of the term, but it’s still pretty interesting.

Related Content:

Apple Citation Ranking

Apple Citation Ranking

Apple as an Upstart Search Engine?

If you weren’t around when Google launched, and grew and matured into the most used search engine, you may have a chance to experience something similar with Apple playing the role of the upstart young search engine. It could happen.

Will this method of ranking be used for searches performed on a browser or desktop using Spotlight or by Siri on iPhones or Apple TV? Will they help in the discovery of new Apps, or new places on Apple Maps?

All of those may be targeted.

New Patents using Influence and Reputation Scores

The first patent tells us that the problem it was intended to address was a growing amount of information on the Web that needs to be sifted through to find trustworthy pages when looking for information, even with search engines available online and sites with ratings and reviews to guide people. The inventors are pretty blunt in their assessment:

Such an approach is time-consuming and often unreliable as with most of the electronic data there lacks an indicia of trustworthiness of the source of the information. Failing to find a plethora (or spot-on) information from immediate non-electronic and/or electronic data source(s), the person inquiring is left to make the decision using the limited information, which can lead to less than perfect predictions of outcomes, results, and can lead to low levels of satisfaction undertaking one or more activities for which information was sought.

Remember, these patents were created by people at Topsy, and not Apple, but Apple must have seen some value to the property that Topsy created, otherwise they wouldn’t have purchased Topsy.

The first patent also points out the flaws in relying upon references, even from people who may have some amount of experience in a related field, such as a chef reviewing restaurants, or a European native reviewing other places in Europe.

We are told that relying upon such references is a little like gambling and hoping for the best results.

And relying upon people perceived as influencers could potentially mean giving some people’s opinions more weight than they possibly should be given.

Regardless, the patent points to the use of influence scores to help in filtering opinions, information, and data, and the ranking of individuals or products or services of any type in any means or form.

The patent also tells us that the sharing of information, attributes, or metadata associated with one entity with other related entities may be useful to identify relevant entities during a search.

Searching for Objects ranking them based upon Citations

Searching for Objects ranking them based upon Citations

This first recently granted Apple patent is:

System and method for metadata transfer among search entities
Invented by: Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, and Vipul Ved Prakash
Assigned to: Apple Inc.
US Patent 9,129,017
Granted September 8, 2015
Filed: June 14, 2011

A new approach is proposed that contemplates systems and methods to ascribe or transfer metadata from one search-related entity to another, where each entity can be one of subject or source, citation, and object or target. First, one or more complete or incomplete attributes associated with one or more of entities across source, citation, and target are identified with a high degree of probable accuracy, wherein such metadata or attributes include but are not limited to, time, language, and location of the entities.

The identified attributes are then ascribed or transferred from one entity where the metadata is available to other search entities.

Finally, the transferred attributes can be utilized to facilitate the selection and ranking of the cited targets for the search result.

The even more recently granted patent is:

Systems and methods using reputation or influence scores in search queries
Invented by: Rishab Alyer Ghosh, and Vipul Ved Prakash
Assigned to: Apple
US Patent 9,135,294
Granted September 15, 2015
Filed: January 31, 2014


One or more processors determine reputation scores for one or more subjects based on connections. One or more processors use a plurality of citations, with each citation representing an expression of opinion or description by a subject on an object. One or more processors select a subset of citations for each object from the citations citing each object.

The content of the citations matches one or more search terms for a search query. One or more processors assign citation scores to a subset of a plurality of objects.

The citation scores indicate relevance of the objects cited by citations and are determined based at least in part on matching one or more search terms with the content of the citations of the objects by the one or more subjects. The selection scores for an object are determined for each search query based on a subset of subjects citing the object.

Reputation Data helping to rank content on the Web.

Reputation Data helping to rank content on the Web.

This patent focuses upon reputation scores to match queries with pages.

This patent focuses upon reputation scores to match queries with pages.

Do patents like these send a signal that Apple may compete with Google in Search? Google may have a head start on Apple in several areas, but that might not stop Apple from trying to compete. Given Apple’s position among mobile device manufacturers and developers of mobile applications, it wouldn’t be odd for them to offer search to their customers

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