Amazon.com has unleashed a test version of its own search engine, aiming to challenge the big guys like Google, Yahoo and Altavista. After seven months of development it's finally unveiled today, and the name is A9.
The search site touts a novel design that lets people sift through Web search results, store and view their own search history, and find book information from Amazon related to query terms. It also promotes a search toolbar that blocks pop-up ads.
"We want to enhance the customer e-commerce search experience, so we're using this beta iteration to gain firsthand commentary from our users," said A9 spokeswoman Alison Diboll. She would not say how long the site would be in beta form.
When Amazon announced the formation of A9 last September, it outlined its development of shopping search technology for internal use and for other companies. But its ambitions now appear to be much wider. The test version of A9's search engine offers Web surfers new variations on other popular search tools.
The service is open to current Amazon customers and others who register with the site.
A9 is leaded by Udi Manber, who was formerly chief technology architect over at Google. He has joined Amazon two years ago and helped developing the "Search inside the book" feature. Since Summer 2003 he leads the A9 project with a team of 20 software engineers.
A9 is somewhat a mix of Google, Amazon and Alexa.
Unlike Google, A9 displays search results with expandable columns to the right, which open up book-related listings or a personal history of search queries. It also displays Google-sponsored ad listings. Data stored on its servers can even tell people which sites they've visited when. (Web surfers must register to see their personalized search history.)
A9's toolbar lets users search the Web, Amazon, the Internet Movie Database and Google; it also can look up definitions. What's novel about it is that it can keep a diary of notes about any visited Web pages and then store them for access on any computer.