‘Search via SMS‘ has been tried before though it has not really caught on. However, a patent recently filed at the USPTO by Yahoo indicates that the company could still be looking at SMS-search as an option to look at in the future.
In the patent, the inventors talk about a system where users may send their search query as a text message to a specific number. This search query shall be processed and the results delivered along with contextually targeted advertisements. The inventors write
“The system may allow a user to submit a search from a mobile device through a mobile message, such as a short messaging service (“SMS”) message. The user may send a mobile message containing a search query to a service provider. The service provider may retrieve the search results and an advertisement targeted to the search results. The service provider may transform the search results and advertisement into a mobile message, such as a wireless application protocol (“WAP”) push message. The service provider may encode each search result and advertisement in the mobile message with a service indication. The service indication may cause the mobile device of the user to perform an action, such as open a browser to a related mobile web page, when the user clicks on the search result or advertisement within the mobile message. The service provider may send the message, with the search results and advertisement, to the user. The user may click on a search result or advertisement to view a related mobile web page.”
Targeted towards developing countries
The idea of search via SMS can appeal to people in the developing world including countries such as India where mobile phone penetration has boomed but internet has not. Keeping with this theme, the inventors claim that the advertisers need not have a web page of their own to advertise and the system will generate a dynamic WAP page that will list their contact information. They write
“If the revenue generator A 110A does not have a mobile site URL for the MNO A 115A, the revenue generator A 110A may still bid on a keyword for the MNO A 115A. In this case, the service provider 130 may dynamically create a “WAP ad.” The “WAP ad” may be an offer landing page containing the phone number of the advertiser and/or the logo of the advertiser. “
It is not clear if Yahoo has serious plans to bring this product to life or is just another patent for posterity. Whatever the case, the intentions seem clearly on monetizing through a lucrative channel that has hitherto remained untapped.