During a presentation Tuesday at the OReilly Emerging Technology Conference here, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos introduced a new feature for A9.com that lets other search engines syndicate their search services to the site.
Dubbing the concept OpenSearch, Bezos said that A9.com launched the feature so users can eventually select among thousands of vertical search options and manage them through the search columns that appear on the right-side of A9.coms interface.
"We need to be able to consume search, [but] theres no way for the A9 team to build thousands of vertical searches," Bezos said. "Rather we have created a simple way of consuming and integrating them into the interface."
A9.com Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., developed an extension to RSS 2.0 to enable the search syndication, he said.
So far, the feature, which appears as a link called "See More Columns," includes about 37 syndicated search options such as the National Library of Medicines PubMed medical index, photo search on Ludicorps Flickr service and article search from NYTimes.com.
"We want this to do for search what RSS has done for content," Bezos said.
When A9.com launched last year, it already provided a new twist on the idea of metasearch. It provided Web and image results from Google Inc., movie information from the Amazon.com-owned Internet Movie Database Inc., reference information from GuruNet Corp. and book-text search from Amazon.com.
Adding more specialized search engines into the A9.com mix is important because vertical search sites provide subject-matter expertise not found in general Web searches, Bezos said.
"Not only are their data sets different but so are the algorithms they use and the relevancy-ranking algorithms they use," Bezos said.
Bezos offered the example of a search about the controversial painkiller Vioxx. Results from a typical Web search would focus on the class-action lawsuits that have arisen from the drug, while a search on PubMed would provide medical information on the drug, he said.
Bezos elicited laughter from the developer-centric conference crowd when he had to restart his computer after accidentally clicking "Yes" on a prompt to load a software update.
But he later returned to the demo, where he showed how a developer could add about three lines of code to RSS in order to make a search engine available on A9.com. He said that developers from Koders Inc. took about two hours to syndicate the sites search for open-source code.
Participation in A9.coms OpenSearch is open to any site or search engine, and the company expects the number of syndicated search options to expand rapidly, said Udi Manber, A9.coms CEO, in an interview following the presentation.