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News: A9 Debuts "Yellow Pages" – Now *That's* Local

By - January 26, 2005

New YorkA9 has debuted a neat new local search product today, which I am covering for Business 2.0 (the actual story will post shortly, this link is to a blog entry about the story on B 2’s blog). This is a big deal for A9, and for Amazon – a blending of search and commerce models that has some interesting implications. Excerpt:

In short, Manber and co. (urged on by Jeff Bezos, who Manber says was “very involved”) strapped GPS-enabled digital video camera-cum-terabyte server rigs to the top of a bunch of SUVs, then drove them around the commercial areas of major US metropolitan areas, recording what then became composite still pictures of entire cities, one address at a time. A9 took more than 20 million images of 14 million+ businesses across ten cities (more are coming soon), then created a local search application they call Block View.

UPDATE: Here’s the actual story I wrote….

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20 thoughts on “News: A9 Debuts "Yellow Pages" – Now *That's* Local

  1. Brian says:

    Now that’s innovation!

  2. This is somewhat similar (but more ambitious), to what is done on France Telecom’s yellow pages, see for instance coverage in the NYT two years ago:

  3. Jeff Bezos, Amazon, IMDB, Alexa, A9, Blue Origin…Can we connect the dots? Does Jeff Bezos want to index the real world? What’s next?

    “Blue Origin is a privately-funded aerospace company initially focused on sub-orbital spaceflight. The company is owned by founder Jeff Bezos and headquartered in a warehouse in Seattle, Washington, where its research and development is located.”

  4. Hashim says:

    I find it incredible sppoky that real people are also in those images. Do they know that Amazon has a picture of them walking out of these stores?

    For instance, look at the people you see outside of this store:

    I would not want my image next to there.

  5. Jeff Clavier says:

    Re France Telecom, the experiment actually started back in 1999, with 7 cities. The company which developed the technology is France-based SNV ( It launched the concept back in 1994, and took two years to develop the coverage of Paris. The co was bought by Wanadoo (the ISP arm of France Telecom) in 2000. And covered Madrid in 2001.
    More information on their site (go to, click on SNV and then history).

  6. This is what should be concerning…Amazon spending cash to drive around taking pictures. Why? What is the model, other than more money for Google?

    “We don’t look at it with strategic intent,” Manber responded. Never one to be drawn into competitive implications, he continued, “If I find a really great idea that can make a difference in search, and I can do it with a small team, I’ll do it. This shows how search can be improved by anybody.”

    And the business model? For now, it’s just Google AdWords, Manber told me. For now, anyway.

  7. Brian says:

    I find it incredible sppoky that real people are also in those images

    The streets and anything in them are fair game for photographers

  8. Rick Mason says:

    The only innovation is the addition of the pictures.

    MetroBot ( has them beat with IMHO a far better user interface sans pictures.

    When I heard the news I thought Amazon had bought them and added pictures. After looking at A9’s implementation I realize it’s a step backwards.

  9. Wai Yip Tung says:

    All these pictures deservedly catch attention. But the service still have much to desire. I searched for Cinema in my area. DANG DANG… here comes a picture of a big bus.

    Turns out the goof may be a blessing 😉 Otherwise it might have embarrassed users for landing them in front of a porn cinema!!! I fool around with the search interface more, never able to find the Cinema I’m really looking for.

    By the way the web site below is an art project to photograph a continuous street sence. The hand edited picture are looks really nice. I hope he will finish the project one day.

  10. rg says:

    Many people may be interested in but not aware of Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip”, an artist book printed in the 1960s. I’ve seen many stories written about the A9 yellow pages but none have mentioned Ruscha. He paid a guy to drive a pickup truck slowly along Sunset Boulevard with a still-camera in the back that fired every second. It has gone on to become a classic photography/art book (The 400 copies he produced for $3 now sell for $2000+ each). It is always great to see life imitating art, but forgive me for raising an eyebrow at “Now that’s innovation”. Someone enterprising should see if they covered the same ground.

  11. Jim Hobson says:

    Hello! I have launched a new BLOG for the yellow pages industry and would like to invite any interested parties to visit the site and leave feedback. I hope to build a site that is of use to industry personnel as well as business owners that may be thinking of using or improving yellow pages advertising. Thank You!

  12. Ian Kennedy says:

    How’d you like to be forever cached in Amazon’s servers as the guy on the cell phone in front of Peepworld

  13. A9 sucks. Paris tour is great!
    Here is another nice tour of San Francisco:

    You can navigate right inside the picture.
    There is Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermans Wharf, and Alcatraz

    Igor Polk

  14. rg says:

    Following up on my Ruscha comment above, Eric Etheridge has done a nice post about it. Get some kultcha into ya.

  15. Anonymous says:


  16. Stewart says:

    What for me I do not need any other search engine but Google. And anyway no one has the same search power especially newly organized search engines.

  17. mike whybark says:

    John, I haven’t been able to find any news stories about this, but I think the recent move to use Windows live results in a9 has killed the Block View stuff. Make some calls, shake a press release out, etc!

  18. mike whybark says:

    It does appear that the amazon yellow pages stuff, including Block View, remains accessible at

    Of course, all the launch links point to an a9 URL that’s gone.:)

  19. exnovias says:

    What for me I do not need any other search engine but Google. And anyway no one has the same search power especially newly organized search engines.