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Updated: Udi Manber to Leave Amazon's A9 For Google

By - February 07, 2006

A reader tipped me to this over the weekend, but I could not confirm it till just this afternoon, and out of respect for the folks who worked with and for Udi, I decided not to post without confirmation. I pinged five other sources since, and Udi confirmed this afternoon. He is leaving A9 for Google. More as I have it.

Update: My initial coverage of Udi and A9 is here. As I’ve said in the past, Udi is one of the leading lights in the search world, on nearly everyone’s “Top Brains in Search” list. And now he’s gone to Google. I have asked him for an interview and very much hope he’ll agree, so we can all hear why he left Amazon – which is clearly making moves toward Google’s space, and vice versa – and went to Google.

Udi will be replaced by Dr. David Tennenhouse. From Amazon’s release:

A9.com, Inc., a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), today named Dr. David Tennenhouse the company’s new Chief Executive Officer.

Tennenhouse is a renowned technologist and seasoned executive. He joins A9.com from Intel Corporation where he served as Vice President of the Corporate Technology Group and Director of Research. In addition to building Intel Research, he developed Intel’s proactive computing vision, drove several Intel Capital Investments and laid the technical ground work for its new Digital Health Group.

Prior to joining Intel, Tennenhouse was Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Information Technology Office where he guided programs in several areas, including search, datamining, information management, machine learning and distributed computing. Additionally, Tennenhouse held positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the Sloan School of Management.

PS – How long do you think John Doerr can remain on the boards of booth Amazon and Google?

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8 thoughts on “Updated: Udi Manber to Leave Amazon's A9 For Google

  1. isb says:

    Congratulations to udi, but this is also very troubling news. Since Google has a lot of smart people, according to the “A people hire A people” principle, all the smartest people will soon be working at Google. How can anybody compete with that kind of talent pool? Google is actually monopolizing intellectual capital – I don’t know how I feel about that.

  2. AnonForNow says:

    I never “got” A9, even after interviewing there and talking to others who have. My best guess: an excuse for Bezos to ease Manber out of Seattle.

  3. Microsano says:

    Congratulations to udi , this is a good news for google , all the “brains” go to google…

  4. Greg Linden says:

    I doubt that, AnonForNow. That would be an absurdly expensive way to fire someone.

  5. AnonForNow says:

    Not really firing, but disentangling while still hoping for something useful. He started as “Chief Algorithms Officer”, then there was not much news, and then he sort of drifted into A9. Most of the algorithms in use at Amazon aren’t that sophisticated anyways, so it’s hard to figure out what the role was. Likewise building A9 as a shell around Google doesn’t speak of a strong IR presence.

  6. Greg Linden says:

    That’s probably unnecessarily harsh, AnonForNow. While at Amazon, Udi drove Amazon’s Search Inside the Book feature. That was a pretty big achievement that sparked a lot of interest from the news media. It launched well before Google’s competing effort, Google Book Search.

    I’m also not sure I agree with your claim that the algorithms in use at Amazon aren’t that sophisticated. Amazon is one of the few places doing work with truly massive data sets, tens of millions of customers, millions of items in the catalog. Techniques needed to do interesting data analyses at this scale are not trivial.

    It is a bit odd that A9 was built as a shell around Google search. I’ve also wondered why they did that, especially since Alexa (another Amazon-owned company) already has a pretty extensive web crawl.

  7. It is not true that Amazon do not have any sophesticated algoritms.

    Amazon’s recommendation engine is one of the best I have seen . I always get the best book recommendation as per my previous purchase. Sometimes I have purchased books for my friends. I can remove those books from the recommendation input. That is one of the thing I liked most.

  8. Oddly, if you have cookies turned off, you can’t even get to A9 from Firefox. When I type “http://www.a9.com” into the address bar, it ratchets back and forth between a9.com and a9.amazon.com, the pops up a dialog box that says:

    “Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.”

    This is lame.

    A user shouldn’t have to have cookies enabled to do a search, but nobody out there seems to have noticed this issue that I’m aware of – which is sort of an indictment of the popularity of A9