September 15, 2004

Amazon Search Engine

Amazon shows off its A9 baby -- Users can store bookmarks online

A9, the tiny Palo Alto company that created to experiment with cutting-edge Internet search technology, took the wraps off its new Web site Tuesday evening, unveiling technology that allows users to store bookmarks and other personal information online.

The A9 announcement suggests that major Internet players could soon embrace the concept of personal online file cabinets, where users can easily store and retrieve the bits of information they collect while traversing the Internet.

Several smaller services have sprouted up recently that allow people to store and search bookmarks. But Amazon is the first big Internet company to publicly embrace the idea and build on it.

``It's not just about search,'' said Udi Manber, chief executive of A9 ( ``It's about managing information.''

Speculation has swirled around Amazon's plans for Web searching ever since the company announced the formation of A9 more than a year ago. Amazon choose Manber, its top search expert and former Yahoo employee, to lead the new company. And Manber set up shop in Silicon Valley, far from Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

Observers assumed Amazon intended to join the Internet search engine wars between Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask Jeeves. Others speculated that Amazon was more interested in perfecting a search engine for e-commerce, which could be used at the main Web site.

Manber would not discuss Amazon's plan for A9 or whether it will merge the new site with Amazon's main shopping site. He characterized A9 as a ``first step.''

For now, A9 exists as a wholly separate Web site from But users log into the site with their Amazon user name and password.

Once inside, users can simultaneously search the Web, the Internet Movie Database (which Amazon owns), Amazon's book catalog and an Israeli reference Web site called GuruNet. For now, A9's regular search results are provided by Google.

When users find a Web page that interests them, they can create an online bookmark that A9 will store on its computers. In another section, A9 stores a history of every Web search a user has conducted through its service, theoretically creating an archive that could span years.

Users can search their A9 bookmarks and search histories with the click of a mouse.

``It gives you the power to remember everything you've seen and to get access to everything you've seen,'' Manber said. ``It's not only finding things that you're looking for. It's things that maybe I didn't know I had found before.''

To take full advantage of the A9 services, users will need to download and install a toolbar on their computers. So far, the toolbar only works with Internet Explorer for Windows. But Manber said his team is developing a cross-platform toolbar.

Furl, Spurl and Amplify are among a host of new services and products that have emerged recently to promote a concept that some are calling the ``personal Web.'' By combining a detailed record of a person's digital footprints with a powerful search engine, the services allow users to instantly dig deep into their Internet surfing histories.

Search-engine expert Danny Sullivan said the concept of saving search results is hardly new and the technology is not especially impressive.

``We're in this incremental game where companies keep adding in these features, but the search results haven't really gotten better,'' said Sullivan, who edits the Web site Search Engine Watch. ``What we're really waiting for is that thing that will make you jump up and say, `Wow!' ''

Sullivan doubted that online bookmarks and searching would resonate with many Web users.

Nonetheless, he predicted that companies such as Yahoo, Google and Ask Jeeves would try to match A9's features. Offering personal Web spaces could help Web sites attract and keep users. That, in turn, could drive more Internet searches, which is where those companies make most of their money.

``I'm sure we'll see other people add on this functionality,'' Sullivan said.
Contact Michael Bazeley at [email protected] or (408) 920-5642. | 09/15/2004 | Amazon shows off its A9 baby

Posted by Craig at September 15, 2004 10:35 PM