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Wednesday, September 15, 2004Amazon launches A9.com, Amazon’s search service. While it’s been in beta for months, A9 officially goes live today with a major upgrade, and could well become a one-stop search platform that offers interesting commercial possibilities that have the potential to trump traditional search players. A9 has improved its already robust "Search History" feature, added several interface innovations, and developed an architecture for searching through third-party information such as reference material or movie sites. Most intriguing, A9 has added a "Discover" feature that brings the power of clickstreams into the mix (more on that later).While it’s not clear that all searchers will want such a sophisticated interface, if A9 catches fire, Amazon will have created some very valuable online real estate that might very well challenge the lead Yahoo and Google have in search. John Battelle writes,"You can view search results as more than just a list of URLs. Some panes could show Websites, others thumbnails of images, and others, if you chose, can show results from GuruNet and the Internet Movie Database. Each pane is represented by a rectangular button on the right side of the page. With two or more of the panes open, the experience of using A9 feels quite distinct from the traditional approach we’ve come to know at sites like Google". The key element is your clickstream, or what A9 calls your "history." By tracking not only what searches one does, but also what sites are visited, A9 builds a real time profile of your interests and past web use. It then folds that profile into both your search results and the search interface itself, making for what can become, with regular use, an entirely new approach to searching.The new A9 will garner a significant share of "high end searchers" -- folks who use the web a lot, and who will be enamored of the elegant interface and the Discovery and History features. The trick will be to push A9 out to the masses, to convince them that there is a better way to search, and that A9 is it. If traffic to A9.com does indeed rise and keep rising, expect Google and others -- in particular Microsoft and AOL -- to pay close attention and to catch up with similar innovations. One thing is for sure: this isn’t the end of the search race, it’s barely gotten started.
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