Apple often acquires small startup companies very quietly and without any formal announcement to bolster its own services, and a new report from TechCrunch claims that the company acquired Ottocat in late-2013. Ottocat was a startup that focused on developing a system to organize and discover apps based on increasingly specific subcategories. Apple currently uses this technology to power the “Explore” tab in the App Store, as seen above.
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Ottocat’s life as an independent company was brief. The startup developed a working prototype of its technology in 2013, with a public beta launching in May 2013. Just a few months later, however, the company’s website began displaying the message: “Ottocat is no longer available.” Apple launched the “Explore” tab in 2014.
Ottocat, in its brief lifetime, hoped to allow users to more easily discover apps when they didn’t have a specific result in mind. For instance, instead of performing a keyword search, the company offered a breakdown of subcategories to more easily find lesser-known apps. The App Store is flooded with more than a million apps, which makes it hard to discover ones that haven’t amassed worldwide possibility. While an independent startup, Ottocat claimed to have indexed the entire App Store on its website, with the ability to drill down results via subcategories.
The experience of the Ottocat team in search could be useful to Apple in variety of instances, so it’s possible that we have yet to see the full effect of the acquisition.