The A9.com beta draws its Web search results from Google Inc. but adds its own twists in presenting them. It focuses on personalization features that let users view their search histories and ties into Amazon.com and other Amazon.com subsidiaries to search within books and provide information about Web-site links.
A9.com, based in Palo Alto, Calif. was formed in October to focus specifically on developing e-commerce search technology for Amazon.coms sites and other sites, A9.com spokeswoman Alison Diboll said. But many of the features in A9.coms beta, which include a search toolbar, appear to focus as much on Web search in general as on product search.
"A9 is looking for specific ways to make e-commerce search prospects more satisfying and efficient for customers," Diboll said. "This is the next step in that direction."
A9.coms beta site connects closely with Amazon.com for many of its features. It integrates in Amazon.coms "Search Inside the Book" technology, showing search results from within books sold on Amazon.com in a "book results" section. Udi Manber, who is now the CEO at A9.com, was behind the development of Amazon.coms book search technology.
The A9.com beta site also requires users to use an Amazon.com login in order to use its personalization features that store and display a users search history. When logged in, users can view their search history both in a separate section as well as within in the Web search results. New Web results are marked as new, while those viewed before list when the user most recently viewed them.
A9.com also provides a search-query shortcut in its URL. Typing in "a9.com/queryterm" triggers search results for the queried term.
From within the Google-powered Web results, A9 has added a Site Info button that, when scrolled across, triggers a balloon with information about the site, including others sites commonly visited by visitors to that site. The information is drawn from Alexa Internet Inc., another subsidiary of Amazon.com, Diboll said.
The A9.com search toolbar, while including familiar features such as a query box, a popup-ad blocker and a keyword highlighter, also provides a diary feature that lets users take notes that are stored and associated with a specific Web pages.
Amazon.com is joining the search field as it becomes increasingly competitive. Yahoo Inc. in February dropped Googles search results in favor of its own technology. Microsoft Corp. also plans to aggressively enter the market this year with its own algorithmic search engine for MSN as well as Weblog and news search services.
Both Google and Yahoo both offer product-specific search, and Ask Jeeves Inc. moved into e-commerce search late in 2003.. Google also late last month added a link to its Froogle product search site onto its home page.
Diboll declined to comment on how Googles e-commerce search efforts will affect the A9.com partnership but said "the relationship as it exists works well for the parties involved."