Wildcard might have a bad time

I've been a fan of Wildcard before it launched. The concept of cards on mobile is a very powerful one. There is just so much context when presented that way. It's also consistent with different forms of content. Think about mobile apps that have top navigation with back buttons and actions on the top right. Over time, this becomes memorable and usable for users even as they use different apps.

Wildcard is aiming to build a new browser that solely relies on this card concept. They are currently positioning themselves as a place to search for news, shop for gear, find a bar, or see whats trending. That is a lot of things to have in mind when thinking about when to use the app.

Search for news

Since that is the first item they mention during onboarding I think that is what they believe to be the most incentivizing. Also with the trending feature, it helps back that up, with over a third of the UI devoted soley to that. News can be tough since there are so many sources we normally get our news from. Also rather than searching for news, I think a majority of us discover it from aggregate sources such as the New York Times, Tabloid sites, tech specific sites, socially through FB/Twitter, and more.

Upon first use, with the different UI, you don't even think of it as a browser. Search is prominent at the top, along with trending searches. But the cards make it feel very different than what you are used to with a normal browser. When doing a search on a person, there is a lot of potential with choosing what content to surface. It could be their social profiles, any news about them, photos, and more. All in very digestible cards rather than stale links.

Google is really good at this with serving up accurate results. Twitter is good at real time results (your visceral reaction to check it when anything big happens.) News aggregation sites are also good at their respective verticals. So this becomes challenging when Wildcard is focused on design as the competitive advantage. Their respective competitors are strong at data and community. Wildcard is still young on this front, but I think it's a key piece that will have to be solved to keep it on par with existing solutions. I don't think design will be enough for news.

Shop for gear

When shopping for most things, particularly gear, I think Amazon comes to mind. They have good prices, customer service, reviews, and your existing credit card. When you think of needing to buy something, they are one of the first places you go. Wildcard adds an extra step since they would then show you a card that you can scroll through to find your item. Overtime they should be able to show you multiple destinations to buy things, and also make them more seamless to purchase. The biggest challenge here is the way consumers think about buying things. There are specific sites that do this very well, and usually help people find the thing they were looking for. It also becomes habit depending on what you are buying. Wildcard's strengths here could be in the card results they serve when you are searching for an item. Because not only are you looking to buy it i.e. a camera, but you want to learn more about it before you make that decision. Here is where cards can help you come to that conclusion before you buy.

Find a bar

Finding anything around you to go for a drink or food is perfect for mobile. Yelp and Foursquare are battling intensely on this and have significant mindshare. Foursquare is using smart push notifications to engage users while they are at venues. While Wildcard's UI can definitely support this use case, I'm not sure a browser is the first thing someone thinks of using to find these things given the other options. There is a subset of searches that are used, mostly to find these places directly vs discover. Discover vs search starts to become a theme when discussing how the product can be used.

See whats trending

So far this seems to be one of the stronger things that Wildcard has. They devote a significant amount of the home real estate to this, and the articles that it shows you when you do choose a trending category are comprehensive. So while they may not have the massive data capabilities that Google or other long standing search engines have, this recently surfaced content is on equal grounds. The question then becomes if this can be made into a habit that people constantly use and check. I do think there is a subset of people that always want to stay up to date on the latest happenings, and love clicking trending hash tags. While it could get usage, I'm not sure if it would align with going to Wildcard to find/search for things but rather going to Wildcard to discover things. Those are two different ways of finding something, which result in somewhat different business models as well.

It would be interesting to see how the non tech crowd thinks of these types of search queries overall, and how they perform them today. Although they are used to the blue and green google interface, cards can be more user friendly with actionable items.

Challenging

Battling on all these fronts, Wildcard is definitely ambitious. By being broad it's a double edge sword. While the market can be enormous, the adoption is difficult. With mobile, users are getting more and more used to assigning each app with a job to be done. By going broad, it's hard to gain mindshare for what your app should be used for by the user. Wildcard is positioning itself to be the next Google. Although they are rethinking the browser I think a lot of the value comes from the contextual search/discovery they can provide. They also mention not wanting to charge a % of purchase from the browser, and with 95% of Google's revenues coming from ads, actionable cards can potentially be even more valuable.

One thing they are doing differently early on is investing in developers to add cards to the platform. While that is great to see I think their biggest challenge will be in getting users to regularly use the product and think of them first for all of their search queries or discovery needs.

There's a reason why a lot of us use vertical specific apps instead of a browser today. I do think their messaging is relying heavily on the fact that they have card ui, which focuses on the what rather than the why. Wildcard is in its earliest stages and I think we will see a lot happen as it settles on different strategies to use to go to market.