The blogosphere continues to chew away on A9, and I think it will take some time for the new service to fully reveal its more interesting features. Gary, for example, gives it a less-than-rave response here, and summarizes many of its features in the process.
I wrote about the implications of A9 w/r/t business models in my last post, but I wanted to say a short bit about why I’m so interested in its approach.
To me, the core feature that makes A9 interesting is what Udi Manber calls a “history server” – the technologies behind A9′s search history and personalization features. Having your entire search and click history, and if you use the Toolbar, your entire browsing history as well, available on a server side application opens up all sorts of new approaches to solving search, research, and recall problems. Combining that history with what Amazon already knows about you (no, A9 does not do that…yet) creates even more powerful possibilities. Yes, it brings up massive privacy issues, but then, we’ve seen this movie a few times. Those who don’t want to watch can opt out.
(As an aside, I have to say the idea of a complete, lifetime record of a person’s searches and browsing history – which by the way that person can edit – is an extraordinary concept. It’s taking the idea of the database of intentions to the utmost granular level of history – the individual. What, I wonder, happens to a person’s search history when they die? Do they have a right to own it? Does it get passed down as a keepsake to his or her children?)
What gets me thinking is that for those who commit to A9 as a search solution, new and continuous improvements in search are likely to be hacked up, based on the fact that the personalized history can be analyzed and leveraged. For example, Gary and others have noted that the service does not allow you to keyword search within your searches, and display, for example, just those pages you’ve browsed in the past. I’d wager Giants tickets that will be in the feature set by the end of the year.
A minor example of the power of the history server: when you repeat a search, A9 will show you what links have changed and what links you’ve clicked on before. This might seem like a minor deal, but it’s a pretty effortless feature for A9 to serve up. Imagine what else might be done with the history server. If you can imagine it, you can probably do it – again, I’ll wager that Amazon will figure out a way to make the A9 interface API friendly, so that its platform developers can cook up even greater feats.
On the interface side, I am a fan of the collapsable columns for search history, web results, and books (which you can imagine will be all things sold on Amazon and its affiliates before too long). But I do agree that the color scheme is a bit…dull. It lulls me toward sleep. Or maybe that’s just my lack of sleep talking.
Manber is quite insistent that A9 is a very early piece of work, the result of 30 folks banging away for 90 days, but that it’s quite robust, and will evolve very quickly in the next year. From what I’ve heard about him from others in the field, and what I can see so far, I am sure it will worth watching very closely.