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A9 Launches "Open Search" – Vertical Search, Syndicated

By - March 15, 2005

A9Columns

Last night at Etech Udi Manber gave me a sneak peek at what Bezos announced this morning – A9′s “OpenSearch.” A9 has always been more of a “remixable” search engine – with many columns on the right hand side that let you hack your search interface – you can create columns of image, reference, web, and many other types of searches. When I wrote up A9 last year, I imagined that those buttons on the right hand side may well augur a time when any content provider might become a button. Turns out, I was right. But I didn’t imagine A9 would use RSS as the way to do it, it’s a neat hack. As the tagline to the introduction of the new services states: “We want OpenSearch to do for search what RSS has done for content.”

Today Bezos took the stage at Etech and announced an open platform which lets any developer create a searchable column that can be added to A9. In short, if you have a content site, you can syndicate searches of that content through A9. It’s all built on RSS, and it’s quite easy to do, I’m told. There are already a bunch of new content sites on A9, I imagine many more will be added as news of this spreads. I’ve added a couple to my page – “Top Blogs” which searches the top 300 or so Technorati sites, and “Sponsored” which basically shows every Adword related to the keyphrase you type in.

“We want to have thousands of these columns,” Bezos said.

This is a neat idea, one that I think will evolve and shift over time. What helped me grok it was the idea of a professional, say a doctor, who builds his or her own A9 interface that has traditional web search, as well as a special column for PubMed (MedLine). It lets the doctor remix the search experience to add vertical search results as well as web search into his search interface.

I asked Udi why he didn’t have an RSS button for each new column so that we could syndicate new search columns into our RSS aggregators, and he agreed that that should be added, and most likely will be shortly. Also, you can’t point to searches as links due to the javascript based interface, which is kind of a bummer.

But the javascript means that the interface for this new feature is very slick – as you use it, it really starts to feel like a desktop OS environment. Just an observation…

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10 thoughts on “A9 Launches "Open Search" – Vertical Search, Syndicated

  1. Hashim says:

    cool, cool stuff. It makes me want to build a search engine just it can be included.

    But a big question for me is this- how can these search engines who adopt this new rss support the bandwidth hit from all these queries?

  2. Eric Elia says:

    While this A9 feature is nice, I find myself organically adopting the Firefox plug-in module. Quietly, there’s been a boomlet in little search widgets that extend Firefox’s built-in search box at the top-right. I’ve got IMDB, LinkedIn, Yahoo Finance and Citysearch right there. Very convenient and habit-forming.

    Will be interesting to see how many of these verticals Google makes obsolete. Movies, Maps, Stocks are all built-in and don’t require a special plug-in. Try a vertical search in an area that doesn’t exist yet on Google, like a flight search. Even those look to be in development.

  3. Suggestion for A9: Just like graphic equalizers often have presets for Jazz, Country and Rock, A9 should create high-value meta search presets such as “Celebrities.” In this example, the preset would combine results from the relevant Celebrity verticals like Web, Images, Movies, etc… Even though the user can theoretically do this manually, this would quickly and efficiently demonstrate the value of a single keyword vertical search, and may convince users to use A9 when their topic matches one of the presets.

  4. I like how A9′s search URL strings get turned into nice neat URL like http://www.a9.com/sirseek instead of messy http://google.ca/custom/?q=sirseek type of URLs/links…

  5. Kaka25988 says:

    I’ve just been staying at home not getting anything done. I’ve basically been doing nothing worth mentioning. My life’s been pretty unremarkable these days. Eh.

  6. Kaka2151 says:

    I’ve just been hanging out not getting anything done. What can I say? I’ve basically been doing nothing worth mentioning, but pfft. Not that it matters. Pretty much nothing exciting happening to speak of. I haven’t been up to much these days.

  7. TramadoL5135 says:

    I haven’t gotten anything done today. I feel like a fog, but what can I say? I’ve just been letting everything wash over me lately, not that it matters. Shrug.

  8. I’ve more or less been doing nothing worth mentioning, but eh. My life’s been really bland today. I don’t care. I’ve just been letting everything happen without me these days. That’s how it is.

  9. I’ve just been staying at home not getting anything done. I guess it doesn’t bother me. Shrug. I haven’t been up to anything. I haven’t gotten much done today.

  10. I just don’t have anything to say right now. I haven’t been up to anything recently, but it’s not important. I’ve just been sitting around waiting for something to happen, but shrug.

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