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NEWS: A9, Amazon's Search Portal, Goes Live: Reverberations Felt in Valley

By - April 14, 2004

beta-a9-logo.gifamazon.gifA9, Amazon’s much discussed skunk works search project goes live today, so I can finally write about it. I saw it last month (caveat: unbeknownst to me until recently, Amazon targeted me as their conduit to break this news – I think they wanted it to move from the blogosphere out, as opposed the WSJ in) and had to keep the damn thing to myself, it was hard, and here’s why: On first blush it’s a very, very good service, and an intriguing move by Amazon. It raises a clear question: How will Google – and more broadly, the entire search-driven world – react?

My gut tells me the public face will be one of partnership: After all, A9 uses Google’ search results and displays at least two paid AdWord listings per result (I’ve requested comment from Google, you can imagine I’m not the only one…). But I have to wonder: What business is Google in, after all? Is it still in the business of just search – as it was back when it was cutting search provisioning deals right and left, with Yahoo (already ended), AOL (arguable imperiled due to Gmail and other trends), Ask, and Amazon? Is it really still in the business of being an OEM to others, a strategy which allowed it to steal those portals’ customers? Or…has it evolved, to a business where it owns a large customer base, one it must now position itself to defend?

It seems to me, Google’s position in Amazon’s A9 implementation is at best a step backwards. If A9 is as good as it seems to be, every customer that uses and/or switches to A9 becomes an A9 search customer, and, more likely than not, a deeper and far more loyal Amazon customer. (The service incorporates a personal search history and many other really neat tweaks, including a wicked good Toolbar.) In essence, Amazon seems to be making a play for Google’s customers. Or it seems that way to me, anyway. Sure, Amazon isn’t in the AdWords business. It’s happy to outsource that to Google and focus on the entire US retail GDP instead…

manberUdi Manber, the head of A9 and one of the leading lights of the search community, is understandably evasive when asked about this subject. Google and Amazon have always been friends and partners (despite the fact that “Work at Google” is the top paid link when you search on his name on Google). But as I point out in the introduction to my Business 2.0 interview, to be posted any moment now, one-time partners can quickly become serious competitors in the Search Find Obtain market. And judging from the look of it, A9 is a very direct statement from Amazon: We are now officially in the search business, so get used to it.

One could argue that A9 is a pure commerce play, not a search portal. After all, that’s what the folks at Amazon insisted when they founded the company and located it in the heart of Google/YahooLand (ie, Palo Alto). But that argument is disingenuous. First off, take a look at the A9 interface. Where’s the commerce? (Answer, it’s there, but it’s hidden, more on that later when I post on the service itself). And second, I’d argue that you can’t really be in the commerce business without having at least a strategy for owning search. The reverse also holds true. It’s two ends toward the middle, and by the way, that middle ground is getting damn crowded – AOL, Yahoo, MSN, eBay, IAC, Amazon, Google…

Of course anyone who’s been in this game for a while will tell you that the internet industry is rife with cat and mouse games of cooperation turned to competition. Netscape’s outsourced its early search traffic to Yahoo, thereby ensuring Yahoo’s success. Yahoo paid the favor forward by outsourcing its search to Google, a practice it ended only last quarter. Microsoft built Overture, and crushed Looksmart. And AOL’s advertising business is on the rise again, due in large part to a deal with Google, which just announced a stunning new email service that pretty much decapitates one of AOL’s core differentiators (oh, Yahoo and MSN as well…).

What makes this particularly noteworthy is that A9 is built quite literally on top of Google. In short, Amazon has taken the best of Google, and made it, to my mind, a lot better. Sound familiar? Yup, it’s what Google did to Yahoo, Yahoo to Netscape…you get the picture.

It all reminds me of a quote in a recent AP story from Google employee #1:

(The ongoing threat of competition) has helped keep Google from becoming complacent, said Craig Silverstein, the company’s director of technology. “If someone should come along and do a better job than us, we know people will switch in a heartbeat.”

Something tells me the hearts are beating a bit faster at Yahoo and Google HQs today. Will Google renew its deal with Amazon? Will Bezos and Schmidt put a good face on it and call this a partnership? I have no idea, but man, things are certainly getting interesting in this neck of the woods. More after I talk with folks and get a second order view of the landscape.

(I’ll also have a much more complete posting on A9, including a tour of its features and a discussion of its strategic implications later tonight.)

PS- for a tour of what’s cool in A9: Click here.

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  • http://willets.org Kendall Willets

    Let’s see: it remembers searches and clickthroughs, and the toolbar allows annotation of urls. Actual searches are passed through to Google and Inside the Book, and I find it hard to imagine Amazon product search not appearing in there at some point.

    So it’s really kind of a search-tracking tool, with individualized record-keeping.

    Is it just an attempt to slide in Amazon search channels next to Google?

  • http://www.erinjohansen.com erin

    I think a lot of us die-hard Googlers will still be using Google for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the clean, no-nonsense interface and reliable results, the combination of which you just don’t get from other services out there. Maybe it’d just take me a while to get used to the A9 interface, but for now and the foreseeable future, I’m sticking with Google, as I’m just not that impressed yet. (I’m feeling like an old curmudgeon, writing this! ha.)

    Not that this is an A9 thing, more of an Amazon rant, but I’ve actually found Amazon’s “search inside the book” feature to be incredibly annoying. I can no longer simply put a word or two from the title in the search bar on the main page and immediately find the results I’m looking for. I now have to slog through pages and pages of results before I find my title. There’s also no advanced searching options, which makes it even more frustrating. It’s infuriating at times and has kept me from buying something via Amazon just because I don’t want to search for it there, and so I end up ordering it locally. So it’s probably good, in a way.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ Dave Winer

    In what way is it better than Google?

    I don’t get it. I don’t particularly want to log into a search engine.

    And do I read this correctly that it’s just a repurposing of Google’s search engine? If so, I don’t predict a lot of people will switch.

  • http://stribs.blogspot.com Robert Stribley

    BTW, good job on NPR this morning, John. Thought their three-parter had some good high-level info for lay people not familiar with the history of search, financing it, etc.

  • http://www.mcluhan.utoronto.ca/blogger Mark Federman

    I can see it now: “People who searched for also searched for…” or “Great search: Search for and – you save 2 clicks!”

  • bc

    lame. take google results and throw some none-too-subtle redirects to amazon. some UI crap with the tabs and bookmarks.

  • bunny

    Ick. They break the back button. That’s a deal breaker for me.

  • http://www.inevitablebacklash.com Lukas

    Even accepting the premise that A9 improves on Google, that doesn’t mean this is a stepping-stone to Amazon replacing Google in any way. Without Google, all of A9′s search-tracking ability means zilch. And I don’t see Amazon building its own Google any time soon.

    Second – the search market is huge, and there’s room for more than one player. Google and Amazon increasingly overlap, but that doesn’t mean a partnership doesn’t make sense.

  • http://www.mcluhan.utoronto.ca/blogger Mark Federman

    The last post was supposed to read:

    I can see it now: “People who searched for blah also searched for…” or “Great search: Search for blah and blah2 – you save 2 clicks!”

    Seriously, I can see why Amazon would want to do this – essentially it pushes the “search Amazon content” out into the wider world (ie. search Amazon without having to come to Amazon first; we’ll get you eventually.) I noticed that the “site info” button does a redirect so that the page is an Amazon-emblazoned page, complete with a listing for “People who visited this page also visited these other pages,” not to mention all of the Amazon purchase tabs and doodads.

    Why people would want to use it over straight Google is another matter altogether. So far, the upstart competitors to Google, a.k.a. pretenders to the throne like Teoma and others, haven’t caught the public’s imagination. Besides, “A9″ doesn’t lend itself to becoming a verb.

  • http://mblog.com/dark_blue_chip/ amorson

    Don’t forget, us Googlers used to be Altavista’ers before that and Lycos’ers before that … Search technology evolves and the one giving the best results wins. It’s nothing new.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ Dave Winer

    Google wasn’t incrementally better than Alta Vista, it blew it away.

    AV was loading up on junk and had become horribly cluttered and slow. If I remember correctly it had been sold a few times. It was a mess.

    Google came in, either by design or luck, and offered us something that was fast, focused and not-a-mess. And it was like magic with page-rank. Incrementally better, like Teoma is, isn’t good enough to make a diff.

    I’ve been wondering why one of Google’s competitors doesn’t try to take all the developers by enhancing the Google API. It’s just sitting there for two years, not moving, with a set of very obvious enhancements possible. Become the OEM search engine for everyone who doesn’t have a Kleiner Perkins partner on their Board of Directors. ;->

    That might be enough to make Google look like chopped liver.

  • http://www.chanticleer.com/ Christophe

    Interesting: It appears to have strict Safe Search turned on, with no way of turning it off (unless I’m missing something). I wonder why that is?

  • http://www.resourcehelf.com gp

    Christophe:
    Looks like you’re on target. I would also bet that
    a9 is NOT licensing the full Google database.

  • http://willets.org Kendall Willets

    OK, I’ve done more exploration into the “site info”. Their description of it is pretty minimal, but it’s clear that they’re building the same sort of review and usage data that Amazon maintains for books and products. With a user id, one can enter a review for each website.

    So what they’re adding is really a review and association database for websites. Google results drive the traffic that goes into the analysis. That fits with Manber’s former title as “Chief Algorithms Officer”.

    In the future perhaps they’ll build associations between websites and products, so one can find a list of cooking websites next to “The Joy of Cooking”, and vice-versa.

  • yb

    A9 doesn’t support Google web search features. I have grown to love Google’s calculator.

  • http://ilovejennabush.blogspot.com Ricky Vandal

    A9 AMAZON search engine:

    type search:GREANPEACE result:Buy baby seal fur at Amazon.com, 20%off

    type search:TORTURE result:Buy bondadge equipment at Amazon.com, gays 10%off, dictators 13%off

    type search:POLICE 911 result:Buy album at Amazon.com Roxanne included.

  • Bob Jones

    A9 filters adult content to a fault. Search for the word “penthouse” and you get ZERO results. What if I’m not into porn? What if I’m into architecture?

    And on the other hand, what if I really AM into porn? Typing “naked celebrities” brings me everything BUT naked celebrities. You can’t really call yourself a complete search engine if you’re censoring what I might find.

    Especially if you’re not being up front about it.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ Dave Winer

    They don’t have Image Search??

  • http://worcester.typepad.com/pc4media Peter Caputa

    you are all so negative. my comments here:
    http://worcester.typepad.com/pc4media/2004/04/a9_is_launched.html

  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    Display book results next to search results? Hey, I had the same idea atfindforward.com :)

    All you need to do is throw together the Google Web API and Amazon API and there you go.

  • Abe

    Not sure I get it yet. They are pulling Alexa into it, which makes sense. I suppose if the toolbar syncs with Alexa’s they are going to start generating an even more massive set of data… The sign in is prominent too, its starting to make sense from the corporate side, they are fiending for even more personal information to crunch.

    But what do they offer the users? Saving your searches has some use, but its damn scary as well. Will the public at large care though? Well first they need to have a reason to use it in the first place…

  • Abe

    on a totally unrelated note, why is my url “questionable content”?

  • dano

    “…Reverberations Felt in Valley” The hyperbole is thick. If I were Yahoo! or Google, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over a dumbed-down, anti-porn Google-lite-with-Amazon-on-top search service. Perhaps some future Amazon personalization might make it noteworthy… I’m not holding my breath. Now a new MSN search with government-sanctioned monopolistic distribution… that might be a little worrying… but they’ll screw the first few release up.

    AltaVista was developed by Digital Equipment Corporation. Digital was bought by Compaq (who were clueless). AV was by far the best search engine until Google with lots of advanced features (like “near” — which Google needs). Using Lycos… you have to be kidding.

  • http://webseitz.fluxent.com/wiki Bill Seitz

    I think it’s also worth remembering Amazon’s obnoxious patent behavior.

    Now i gotta go home and get my new books that were delivered same-day for free by bn.com.

  • JS

    I found search inside the book invaluable when i built a deck on the back of my house. most info like that is still inside do it yourself books

  • http://www.resourceshelf.com gp

    The toolbar offers a neat feature that allows you to annotate web pages.

    Most of Google’s advanced syntax does work.

  • http://www.jroller.com/page/otis Otis

    How about this!
    Alexa (an Amazon company), shows an interesting graph for A9.com:

    http://www.alexa.com/data/details/traffic_details?q=&url=a9.com

    It would appear not only that A9.com has been in existence for almost half a year now, but that it has also received a fair bit of traffic from browsers with Alexa’s plugin.

    And it gets more even interesting with Wayback Machine:
    http://web.archive.org/web/*/a9.com

    Otis

  • http://www.aquarionics.com Aquarion

    I suspect it works both ways. Amazon bought Alexa, and it’s possible that the A9 deal comes with access to the Alexa database, which would give Google a metric shit-load of neatocool data to play with.

  • http://chaoticset.perlmonk.org/ chaoticset

    Why wouldn’t Google just strip the two actual improvements (the Diary feature is fascinating in a way, and the last-time-you-visited thing sounds like a necessary improvement) and make their own versions? Ones that are better, and streamlined?

    Amazon’s MS-smart. Google’s evolutionary-smart. The latter always wins.

  • http://www.jimcarson.com jim

    Well, at least my web site FINALLY has an ASIN (B0001AX72C). :)

    How many toolbars does it take to browse? (MSN, google, alexa and now a9? plus anonymizer/steganos…)

    I’m not sure the logging in aspect is appealing… if I like a site, I’ll just bookmark it.

  • http://www.jimcarson.com jim

    Well, at least my web site FINALLY has an ASIN (B0001AX72C). :)

    How many toolbars does it take to browse? (MSN, google, alexa and now a9? plus anonymizer/steganos…)

    I’m not sure the logging in aspect is appealing… if I like a site, I’ll just bookmark it.

  • Wincent

    error in article: “insuring Yahoo’s success”

    should be: “ensuring Yahoo’s success”

    error: “The reverse also hold true”

    correction: “The reverse also holds true”

    You should proofread your articles, or if you don’t feel capable of it, find yourself an editor who can.

  • http://www.inevitablebacklash.com Lukas

    Google is evolutionary smart? What does that mean?

  • CGameProgrammer

    Addressing various points:

    HISTORY: A9′s history is well-implemented from a website-design perspective, but its usefulness is limited. How often would someone want to repeat the same search?

    Regarding privacy, the history is remembered in cookies… although it could also be associated with your Amazon account if you’re logged in, and that is scary.

    ALEXA: For those who don’t know, Alexa is owned by Amazon but not many people are aware of it. It provides somewhat-useful traffic data of websites, but the data is only gathered by people using the Amazon/Alexa toolbar, which few people use.

    BACK BUTTON: Evidently when you do a search with A9, it goes to one page that redirects to another. So you get two entries in your back-button dropdown menu for “A9.com Search: test search” for example. If you click the Back button, it goes back only to the page that redirects you so you can never go back by clicking the button. Extremely annoying and extremely pointless.

    WEBSITE DESIGN: No one mentioned this yet, but the website design of A9 sucks. The colors are hard to read and the fonts are way too small. Google also has a somewhat annoying website but it’s not nearly as bad.

  • http://www.resourcehelf.com gp

    Otis:
    The reason that you found a9 material in Wayback is because the domain used to owned by someone else. The domain was first registered in September 1999.

    The a9 domain was taken over by Amazon/a9 in late October 2003.

    The previous domain owner was a person in Pennsylvania.

    Prior to that it was owned by domain registration/consultant in California.

  • http://battellemedia.com John Battelle

    Interesting comments here, and I am sure input that the folks at A9 will take to heart, esp. the back button and porn stuff. Keep it coming. I plan to use A9 as my main engine for a while to see what it’s like. I sense that it gets better over time, as it gets to know you – and as you start to create a search ecology of sorts – the space you search in the most.

  • MangoGrrl

    I like the Google GUI much better. The color scheme is more appropriate – the yellow is a bit of a strain. Also, the sponsored links from a search result are relegated to the side of the page. This is much nicer than having some at the top of your search results.

    However, A9 nicely integrates amazon.com site features with Google search technology, and adds some cool features. As a growing internet junky, the following features are of note:

    http://www.a9/enter search term] – good for toolbar-less quick search
    ability to search google and amazon.com at the same time
    site info minipages (which I hear is generated only by Alexa/Amazon toolbarrees

  • http://irish.typepad.com/irisheyes/2004/04/banning_google_.html Bernie Goldbach

    A9 is yet another tool to work around the times when Google gets banned:

    http://irish.typepad.com/irisheyes/2004/04/banning_google_.html

    But like other workarounds that ultimately show what Google stashes, you can continue getting porn through cache searches and by using reserved words.

  • Abe

    CGameProgrammer, the redirect is page that breaks the back button is not worthless, it allows Amazon to fully track what search results get clicked. I suppose they could do it with Javascript or something similar, but it seems they found the redirect approach more efficient or easier to implement. Either way its pretty clear they have designed this engine to harvest as much data as possible from the users, far more then Google is collecting now…

  • Abe

    a positive, they have set up a site specifically for those who don’t want their data collected: http://generic.a9.com/

    the flip to that of course is that its a tacit admission that they are collecting enough information to raise some peoples alarms.

    the privacy policy has a similar duality. On one hand they assure that: “Information about our customers is an important part of our business, and we are not in the business of selling it to others”

    so they probably won’t sell your info outright although the phrasing is vague enough that its not a guarantee. but at the same time they carve out exceptions for “Use of Third Party Service Providers” and “Business Relationships with Third Parties We Do Not Control”.

    as I read it, you can’t go and buy their data, but if you enter into a “business partnership” with Amazon, then hey the info is yours to explore.

  • http://www.christianheadlines.com Barry Bowen

    Filtered search results could be a plus for A9. I know some parents that will want their kids to use a search engine that tries to eliminate porn from its index.

    Google requires that its users go to the advanced search page to turn on filtering.

    One last thing: Porn sites have been spamming the search engines. Filtering can lead to better search results.

  • http://www.erinjohansen.com/ erin

    commenting on the anti-adult features, I typed in “porn” to the a9 search engine, and then clicked on related books, and this was the first result:

    How to Become a Porn Director: Making Amateur Adult Films
    by Nick Ryder (16 January, 2002)

    So apparently the adult filtering applies to everything but books.

  • http://www.mythusmage.com/mythusmageopines Alan Kellogg

    Whoop.

    Unlike certain people I liked the graphics. The overall look however…

    Same old, same old. A linear list with ten entries, to see more you have to load another page.

    For a better search experience try Kartoo. It’s not a search engine, instead it uses a number of search engines to get the results. The difference lies in how the results are presented. As a map or series of maps showing sites found as folders, plus keywords scattered among the folders. When you put the pointer over a site information on it appears in the left side bar and arrows point to the relevant keywords. Put the pointer over a keyword you get arrows pointing to relevant sites.

    In addition, you get a list of search terms in the left sidebar you can add to the original to narrow the search. The right sidebar has additional information.

    Finally, Kartoo remembers your previous searches, in case you want to go back and check out the results again.

    The three drawbacks it has are that it requires the most recent version of Flash (which shouldn’t be that hard to get), it’s the ‘service’ of a French company, and they charge you to put a Kartoo search box on your site.

    That aside, it is better looking, and gives better results than any other search service I’ve tried yet. The maps alone raise it above Google and A9 in my estimation.

    So you can keep your A9, I’m sticking with Kartoo.

  • CGameProgrammer

    More points:

    A very good idea a9 implemented was the short-URL search. Type this into the address bar:

    a9.com/game development

    That does a search for ‘game development’. Easy. The shortest way to search with Google is:

    google.com/search?q=game development

    Longer and more annoying to type. a9 gets away with the short URL by having all subfolders in the ‘~’ folder. So if the URI doesn’t begin with ‘~/’ then it knows it’s a search query.

    Abe: The search results page can log anything they want; there’s no need for a redirect page.

    Kellogg: I just tried Kartoo. It’s confusing and the text overlaps or spills off the screen, and it’s annoying having to wait a few seconds for the search results. So, I don’t like it. But I agree there may be better ways of expressing the data than a text list, but a mainstream search engine needs to use text by default.

  • http://whoisireland.com John McCormac

    Amazon’s new search engine has the capability to make Amazon.com’s site even sticker for users, if it is deeply integrated with it of course. The whole idea of personalised searching has been talked about for some time now and Google was meant to be launching something along these lines. However Amazon seems to have beaten Google to the punch. The addition of book results brings a lot of the ‘deep web’ into the equation. The new search engine wars may not just be between the Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

  • Joe

    The short URL approach is great, although if you’re using Firefox, you don’t need to type a URL at all anyway – just type your search term in the address bar and it goes to Google by default.

    The only thing that’s missing is a way of getting back the results as an XML document (like Amazon.com’s XML-HTTP interface) That would be the killer app. Google screwed up by making their interface SOAP only.

  • http://www.afriguru.com Seun Osewa

    No they are not… their revenue model depends on people visiting their site, seeing and clicking those precious green 9now white) ads on the right!

  • http://me.melones.com/ Melones Terese

    Remember girl and boy, ever “innovation” in Amazon is innovation their lawyers find also. Lol. Ask about PATENT. Plan to sue enemy as in past? Bezos no friend of the common man or common Melones! Lol.

  • http://www.the-search-engines.com Paul

    I must say that I quite like it.
    Remember that this is a Beta version.

    The funny thing about it is that the “site info” on http://www.a9.com is not so fresh :
    Speed: Not available !!

  • http://www.fundingpost.com H. Schwartz

    Amazon’s “search inside the book” – sounds like Google’s print beta:
    http://print.google.com/print/faq.html

    Search and commerce have been coming together for sometime – which is obvious as its the only part of “advertising” that is really making any money in the past 2 years.

    You will see more VCs fund search startups – as Amazon will need to acquire to scale their search offerings . . . . and when Google gets around to going public you will see MUCH more VC funding of search co’s – as Google will have a great currency to run around picking off small potential competitors and big strategic partners!

    (By the way GREAT article – don’t worry about the comment on grammar – blogs are not supposed to be edited down — keep em’ coming!)

  • http://www.komar.org/ alek

    Great writeup John – Dave Winer commented about Google’s API and how if someone wanted to compete, they should try competing at the developer level. There are a number of very interesting applications built on top of the API (and not just useful for SEO folks) and this is an area where I think there is room for inovation by the other search engines, but we just haven’t seen it.

    alek

    P.S. I also think Google has done some nice brand name enhancement/recognition with projects such as Google Toolbar Compute – see my team at:
          http://www.powder2glass.com/Google_Toolbar_Compute/
    which also supports a good cause. So they have done a good job of keeping “Google” in people’s minds, so I question how many folks will use A9.

  • http://www.martinandalex.com/blog Martin Tobias

    Most of the comments are off the mark here. Focusing on UI or some incremental feature people like/don’t like. The real invention here, or should I say opportunity for invention, is at the data type level. Google WAS an order of magnitude better than prior search because the results were tons more relevant and clean. But Google still is just doing HTML scraping. Ask even the Google guys and they will say search is less than 15% done. What is not done are many more datatypes like RSS, Atom, audio, video and lots more both structured and unstructured.

    Many people are getting bogged down with discussions of how you monitize search (Google adwords or Amazon transactions). Monitization is not the frontier. Data is. A9 has access to four proprietary databases that add significant value to the search process:
    1. My amazon preferences, buying habits, etc.
    2. Amazon’s personalization engine built on arguably the largest e-commerce transaction database in the world.
    3. The book contents database. There is more content in books than on the web (and much higher value).
    4. The Amazon SKU database (and the auction listings).

    These four things are not found in detail with basic Google. And they add value to the search process and results. There are other islands of data. Blogs (all the metadata) are an island today (Technorati is doing a good job unlocking that). Music and video are a HUGE island today mostly due to the media company propensity to sue anyone who gets close to them. The frontier of search is all these islands of data types.

  • http://www.joegrossberg.com Joe Grossberg

    “A9 uses Google’ search results”

    Then why does this happen when I search for Grossberg on …

    Google:
    * Joe Grossberg
    * Rami Grossberg’s WWW Page
    * Grossberg Company LLP
    * Stephen Grossberg
    * Stephen Grossberg’s On-Line Publications
    * CURRICULUM VITAE
    * Amy Grossberg

    A9:
    * Rami Grossberg’s WWW Page
    * Stephen Grossberg
    * Stephen Grossberg’s On-Line Publications
    * CURRICULUM VITAE
    * Amy Grossberg,
    * Scott Grossberg Photography
    * CG&C Interactive – The Virtual Law Office (TM)

    Fine, my page has a naughty word in the subtitle, but why drop Grossberg Company LLP (a totally unaffiliated accounting firm)?

    And why not tell people they’re doing this, like Google’s “Moderate SafeSearch is On” note, as Christophe noted above?

  • http://www.copnfusedkid.com/primer/ Camilo

    Amazing. Although I don’t even consider speculating about the business plans of competing companies, it seems to be that Amazon is trying to flex its search muscle. Would it displace google, or just edge it aside using a similar approach (distributed computer, everything in RAM, speed and quality as main virtues)?

  • http://rhonabwy.com/mt/ Joseph Heck

    A9 is clearly in the position of adding significant value, even if it isn’t apparent that it’s doing so now. In maintaining a search history for the users, and leveraging Amazon’s userid connection, they have a HUGE amount of information to enable a hueristic base for disambiguation. In short, they know what you’ve been looking for, and what you’ve clicked when you did look, so they’ve got a pretty darn good idea of what you might like and can use that information to tune the results.

    A perfect example is “elvis”. Is the person looking for the “the king”, or Elvis Costello? If you know which the user already prefered (perhaps by purchase history of CD’s), you’d have a pretty good leg up…

  • http://www.dynamoo.com/ Conrad Longmore

    For some months now Google has been using a filter to block certain “overoptimised” sites from turning up in the search results (the so-called “Florida Update”)

    You can turn off the Florida filtering in Google by preceding the search string with allintext:

    Try this simple experiment – open three browser windows, two for Google and one for A9. In the first Google window search for “kittens” (without the quotes), the second window look for “allintext: kittens” and in the A9 window, search for just “kittens”. You’ll see that the A9 results are the same as the “allintext:” results from Google – i.e. they’re not using Florida filtering, which is a recent “tweaking step”.

    In other words, A9 *is* using straight Google results, but Google choose to add an additional layer of filtering to their results.

    Combine this with the adult content filter, and the results look very different.

  • pb

    I’d be happy if Amazon simply used a9 as a practice grounds for improving amazon.com search, which is abominably horrible at the moment. Sometimes I wonder if all sites should just use Google “site:xxx.com keyword” for search.

  • http://www.irider.com/ Ken Broomfield

    A9 does clearly remind one of the limits of web search and that there’s a universe of (often more authoritative) information out there in the form of books.

    The separate columns seem like a usability problem to me: how does the eye scan such results? One either bounces back and forth between columns or follows one column down, scrolls back up, and follows the other.

    Another problem, possibly caused by the redirection they have to use, is that already-visited links aren’t colored differently. So, the old-fashioned method of knowing what you’ve already visited doesn’t work.

    http://www.irider.com

  • Tony

    Perhaps Amazon is gathering a MASS of users from the Google crowd… and when the time is right, they’ll execute a ruthless backstab by disconnecting Google, replacing Google search with an Amazon-patented search technology that is light-years ahead of anything out there, emerging as the CHAMPION of search.

  • Pete

    I run the same searches on google every morning and it appears that A9′s results are ~2 weeks behind google’s results.

    Also A9 doesn’t realize that foo.com/~bar and foo.com/bar are the same, so A9 duplicates results that google collapses into a single result. They do appear to have figured out http://www.foo.com and foo.com are the same.

    A9 also seems to drop some blogs (not adult!) that are returned by the same search on google.

  • http:/// Jozef

    I am richly impressed

    Hoped on

    http://a9.com/

    typed

    “jozef imrich” site:amazon.com

    and ended up with unique result…

  • http://amediadragon.blogspot.com/ jozef

    Hoped, if properly spilled czeched, could become bloggish hopped…(smile)

  • dave

    i don’t really understand the book search results or the search history bars… the first thing i did was to minimize these (cool javascript trick by the way).
    will we really ever use these? maybe amazon is planning on putting some of their results on this page (as suggested by many people on this blog) but i don’t really see that working out very well. the “search inside the book” definitely kicks google’s print project’s butt though :)

  • http://www.andersabrahamsson.net Anders Abrahamsson

    Beta version.

    Room for improvement, and progressive use of initial user’s comments filling that room, I guess. So, following with a guess the A9 management reads this line of intelligble comments, so I rather put my instant first use improvement suggestions here, rather than using some feedback form or so.

    Firstly, moving into more “intelligence” in the World of Searching the World Online. That’s the thing.

    Remember the Apple early vision of “Knowledge Navigator”? We’re migrating to that more and more now. Depth in searches and including the searching inside the book feature makes sense. And the “memory” added. History. The more simple AI engines coming forward, the more learning from my searchers, that this opens the door for with intelligent database usage with an interaction done, now permissed to track my search history, the better. Some excessive datamining here, the information also could improve the “generic” world of searching. It’s an open door for some groundbreaking improvements in the world of Search Quality. Remember that it was the key feature, only to include one thing to improve the world of searching that made Google stick out – tracking how many web sites that link to this, and improving the search position as one of the parameters. Two or three intelligent uses of these kinds of features, would make A9 to stand out totally. Even if its Amazon commercialization is obvious, and perhaps annoying, if you let yourself be annoyed of those who wants to grab your bucks. But don’t rely on my convenience and laziness only. I can find Amazon stuff elsewhere. You don’t HAVE to buy it there, because price comparison European leader Kelkoo is for my prospective buying anyways (http://www.kelkoo.com).

    Secondly, to increase the number of users switching to A9, if you want it, the Tell A Friend thing using email, and tracking that email with a permission from you to see if your friend also is an A9 user, including it next time you log on to A9 (or if not – a mail saying – “Hey, use A9″), the obvious community of your friends around you, that special community that everyone is trying to have yourself to speed “remarkable” stuff talking to Seth Godin, would increase the number of users. A9 as in itself a strong ideavirus, I would say. It surely created a buzz this week! (http://www.sethgodin.com) But just a lame tell a friend referral, the obvious sharing of “This page might be of interest of you, since I remeber that you are in the Biz of YYY” or “Hey, look what I find for your paper/blog/magazine/book to come/birthday present to ZZZ”. Whatever. Remember one thing – the best search engine still is the People. More efficient to ask a person to get the Real Quality coming from an entity having I-N-T-U-I-T-O-N. That’s why Human to Human Interaction should be of use for this! With this “Searches suggested by XXX” on top when logging in to A9 for your morning cup of coffee and another day in the networked world. Soon wireless everywhere ultrawideband.

    Thirdly, that sure brings me to the final thing to say.

    “What shall Google do?”

    (in the same breath this Amazon page ha ha – “Googlemania” from Wired in the Amazon spot – http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00005N7TL/ref=pd_ecs_mag_eb_a/002-5014890-9545626?v=glance&s=magazines&n=)

    That eBook by the same Godin, a collaborative effort by many (me included…yeah, ok, shameless self promotion is not the case, promise!), maybe A9 would be the one implementing the stuff I suggested there (that’s the reason of me mentioning it, the issue was in central :) ;

    And searching A9 on that phrase; :) – the top result from “What shall Google Do?” brought it to my little joy;

    http://www.on-a-mission.org/google.htm

    From our business website, where this suggestion was in that published eBook all the way relevant to download in this context!(http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2003/08/word_on_the_str.html)

    So, I run it here. Again. Why? Let it talk for itself.

    “I’ll just make it simple. For every search you do, 1 cent goes to an investment fund for long term poverty eradication and empowerment. Like the fund we are in the loop to build up. There is in global interest of having poverty eradicated. My mind is all too set on it to think of anything more than above :) .”

    Period. End of story. Thanks for having you following me to here.

    Peace,
    Anders
    “sustaionpreneur”
    Blog – http://www.andersabrahamsson.net – this note crossposted
    Business – http://www.on-a-mission.org – this being the Walk of the Talk of the last suggestion for improvement (waiting for the Full Version of A9 to include this feature) :)

  • Payouts

    Dont really see that working out very well. the “search inside the book” definitely kicks google’s print project’s butt though :)

  • http://www.madkidd.com mad:Kidd

    I think one thing that no one seems to have mentioned is that fact that Google isn’t just going to sit around and do nothing. They will look at A9, see what people like about them and what people don’t and then use that to improve Google.

    Now, I’ve got to be honest. I would be a little scared to be pouring money into Google right now. With Yahoo! gone, AOL to be soon, and Amazon now bringing along their own Google has a lot to live up to.

    Now let’s not forget that Microsoft has totally new search technology coming around sometime soon, most likely with the release of Longhorn (Windows 2005?). Now I know all of the “anti-Microsoft” people will flip out and start yelling at me for even brining them up but you have to consider what they have in the works. Weather you like them or not most of you are using their technology right now…

    If Microsoft is able to build a sufficient search engine, and have it built into the new OS with the ability to search through my files and maybe others (P2P directly into OS?) all with the same search as I use for the web, and it works…. well, then I’ll be switching.

    I’m still waiting for Google to become a full service software company (probably won’t happen) but I really want a Google Spam Filter.

    A9 is nothing hot, nothing bad really (unlike that Kartoo that someone mentioned above), just nothing hot. If you have the Google toolbar it remembers your searches for you and those stupid panels on the right hand side are annoying. Also, the results are nothing special. But if A9 were to leave Google (which I would expect in the near future) they may be able to find some imporovments on the results. I’ve found that Yahoo! brings back some wonderful resutls these days it’s just too bad their UI sucks.

    That’s just my 2 cents which really doesn’t matter because I’m just a partner in a small, struggling, web development company in the little town of Mooresville, NC. But what else can I do but leave my comments?

  • http://www.vivm.com/ andry

    I think on it there will be no rough reaction

  • http://allonnet.com danny

    Well, I believe that Google gonna be No. 1 many years from now cause it’s just unbeatable.

  • http://ddmcd.home.mindspring.com/DVD/ Dennis McDonald

    The first time I tried A9 I found I already had two searches in the search history — searches which I didn’t remember. That’s interesting. One was “DVD BOXED SETS” which must have come from my Amazon pre-order a couple of days ago of the upcoming Star Wars DVD boxed set — but I never actually used those search terms when interacting with Amazon. If that search did spawn this bogus “search history” I have real questions about privacy etc. etc. etc.

    I like the features especially the automatic retrieval of images as well as web searches.

    I have questions about the interface — I use Firefox and its multitabbing feature extensively and the tabs on the right side of A9 (I mean, buttons) seem to overlap functionally a bit.

    Overall I like A9 but I’m not sure it will replace Google for me, especially since I don’t understand fully the (commercial) relationship between A9 and Amazon. If this is just another way to push me into Amazon, I don’t need it — I already use Amazon a lot, thank you, and don’t need another tool fuzzing things up.

    Like any portal type of tool I’ve used, I will want to “customize” it to how I work, and right now, I’m not sure about that.

  • Andy

    Microsoft didn’t “build Overture” — unless I’m mistaken, I think they bought GoTo.com (already a well established player by then)

  • http://www.christian-fries.de Chris

    Anyone tried http://www.amascore.com ? It is a scoring enginge for book searches at amazon.

  • http://www.serebra.com Tony Brandner

    Tried A9.com for the first time, and although I love the history and personalization features, I really think the lack of functionality like this is one of the reasons that people choose google. Yahoo and some more localized search portals have has personalization for a long time.

    I know it’s already been said, but Google is really simple, and it comes off as not tracking your usage (whether or not this is true, it’s all perception).

    I think that many people are a little wary about sharing their surf habits with a company like Amazon.

    Or perhaps it’s just the geek in me speaking.

    I’m also glad to hear someone else call the A9 GUI ugly. It really doesn’t work well for me, although I am in Firefox.

    Tony

  • http://kazza-lite.piranho.com Jake

    Well, I believe that Google gonna be No. 1 many years from now cause it’s just unbeatable.

  • http://www.virtuar.com/ Igor Polk

    Here they are! They issued a virtual tour around San Francisco. Check them out: http://a9.com/optical?a=oyp
    And then, please, check out my San Francisco Virtual Tour: http://www.virtuar.com/ysf2/
    What is better?

    Thank you!
    Igor Polk,

  • http://www.steamboat-springs.blogspot.com/ Jon

    I think that Google wins anytime someone extends functionality by using their API. It has a been a big driver of their sucess. It doesn’t appear to me that Amazon is really serious about search yet even though they are toying with it to be ready if the percieved threat level from Google rises.

    My thoughts on life in Steamboat Springs
    http://www.steamboat-springs.blogspot.com/

  • http://thebestblog.myblogsite.com/ david
  • http://72works.com Business Woman

    I am completely satisfied with google search and I do not even think of mooving somewhere else. A9 may be as good as gold but I wouldn’t make a move towards smth that have more than a search bar.

  • chris

    I think google is the most annoying thing ever it suxs i cant even use certin things it it brings me too the google search

  • bill church

    Amazon Sux, anyway. Their system is completely broken, and I’m enjoying reading stuff from another online bookstore while they go chase themselves, whatever they do!

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  • http://www.partnerprogramm.com Uwe

    Dont really see that working out very well. the “search inside the book” definitely kicks google’s print project’s butt though :)

  • how to french kiss

    it is about 3 years after your this article appear. Mind to share your experiences about A9 in this 2 years ?how do you find it ?

  • http://multiz.com MultiZ

    A9 seems okay, but that’s just it. People just want a simple large-fast search engine. A9′s alexa ranking isn’t that great after all.

  • http://www.emlaklinkleri.com emlak siteleri

    I think one thing that no one seems to have mentioned is that fact that Google
    isn’t just going to sit around and do nothing. They will look at A9, see what
    people like about them and what people don’t and then use that to improve Google.
    web site http://www.emlaklinkleri.com

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  • sohbet

    I think one thing that no one seems to have mentioned is that fact that Google
    isn’t just going to sit around and do nothing. They will look at A9, see what
    people like about them and what people don’t and then use that to improve

  • sohbet

    just drink the water and shut up….if you’re really that worried about the environmental aspects of the fiji water, you wouldn’t be drinking it in the first place…

  • http://www.ircsohbet.com mIRC

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  • http://www.firefoxget.de Firefox

    I think one thing that no one seems to have mentioned is that fact that Google
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  • http://drveresh.googlepages.com Veeresh

    It can be a better solution for an end-user who is in touch with Amazon often inorder to search for some product and get the results are mostly relevent to the products.

    A9.com lacks some usability and accessibility features. Search results need to be organized well for better access, now it seems little congested content. Some of the features are not compatible with some others browser(Opera). Amazon need to take these bugs severely before end-users start going away.

    Thanks!

    Veeresh D.
    http://drveresh.googlepages.com