Discovery vs Search

“Discovery vs Search” may be a much-discussed topic in tech circles but it’s still not understood very well by people who use these services. I’ve tried to explain the objective of music discovery in our About page, and I still get questions about it.

So when I saw this question posted on Twitter, I thought I would give a shot at a non-geeky explanation for “Discovery vs Search”. Here it goes:

  • You use Search when you are looking for a specific item. You use Discovery, when you are looking for ideas or recommendations (for books, songs, movies, restaurants, etc.). You may want to Search for a particular song you’ve heard on the radio but you would want to Discover new songs you have never heard of.
  • Search assumes you’re in a hurry – it wants you to find the thing you’re looking for and move on. (How many times have you gone beyond the second page of Google search results?) Discovery assumes you have some leisure time. It encourages you to explore and find more and more things you may like (the omnipresent “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section on Amazon).
  • Search wants you to be satisfied. Discovery aims at higher emotions – Awe (How did they know I would like this item?), Excitement (This is an amazing find!) and Trust (If they tell me I might like it, I probably will.)
  • For the most part, Search doesn’t care about your preferences. Discovery is driven by you what you like (or don’t). In that sense, Search is transactional and Discovery is relationship-oriented (Thej’s description!).

Search and Discovery also have something in common – both depend on you to be successful. Search depends on you to provide a good description of what you are looking for. Discovery depends on you to provide clues of what you might like.

“Search vs Discovery” is not a debate about what’s better, it’s about understanding how the two are different and how they can complement each other.