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Amazon's new search engine A9

Last week, Amazon officially launched its search engine A9.com. A9 is the first search engine with strong personalization features. It looks as if A9 has the potential to become a major search engine.

What is special about A9?

The A9 search engine tries to provide a new search experience. A9 offers search results from different information sources, which are presented through selectable and adjustable columns (web and image search, book text search, movie information search, dictionary search, etc.)

A9.com is "a search engine with a memory" as it returns results from the user's information, so with every search, users will see results from their own history, bookmarks, and diary.

A9 also offers new features to manage online search. For example, a search history is stored and displayed to users anytime they are signed-in either from home or from work.

A9 offers a diary that allows users to record, save and reference notes about any web page they visit. In addition, A9 offers a bookmark manager.

Privacy concerns

If you have an Amazon account, A9 will automatically recognize you. A9 also remembers what you searched in the past. A user's A9 activity can be tied to a user's history on Amazon.com.

The A9 privacy policy says it very clearly:

"Please note that A9.com is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com Inc. If you have an account on Amazon.com and an Amazon.com cookie, information gathered by A9.com, as described in this privacy notice, may be correlated with any personally identifiable information that Amazon.com has and used by A9.com and Amazon.com to improve the services we offer."

If you use all A9 features and buy at Amazon, then Amazon knows who you are, your complete address, which web sites you visit, which products you purchase, etc.

A9 is also available in a generic version that doesn't collect personal information. However, the generic version doesn't offer all features of the full version.

What does this mean to you?

Although A9 currently uses Google index it might become a Google rival in the near future. A9's chief executive officer Udi Manber was the chief scientist at Yahoo before joining Amazon.

A9's personalization features will probably be copied by other search engines soon. This might be the overture to a shift in the search engines market. The first other major search engine with personalization features is Ask Jeeves (see news below).

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September 2004 search engine articles