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Posted on 15 April 2004 in Internet (No comments)

Launches of new search engines seem to be ten to a penny these days. Yet the launch of one from Amazon is surely a bit more interesting to the world? Surprising then that when search engine A9.com was unleashed onto the world yesterday, I didn't read about it in someones blog. I found it via the Media Guardian instead.

The site uses Google for its results and doesn't have a UK-only option which means I've no real incentive to start using it on a day-to-day basis. Plus I don't like the rather brown colour scheme.

However it does have an interesting function. Well more than one - but one of most interest.

Search in books is all very well but it's not the one for me. Nor is being able to save your last searches. And being able to view Google's cache of the page is all very well, but why does it keep Google's branding? Not very consistent eh!

No, the feature for me is 'Site Info'. This is where (for me anyway) A9.com gets interesting. Hit that little button and you'll zoom off for some more consistent branding - you turn up at Amazon.

No wait! They're not trying to flog you books. Yet. But instead you get a page of information in Amazon for the site - like this one for Bods Central.

Unfortunately as you may have noticed, for this little site you don't get much of any use, but if you take a better example (like maybe the BBC) you'll see all sorts of Amazon-esque features like 'People who visit this page also visit...' which provides an interesting twist on Google's 'Similar Pages' functionality, providing as it does a sort of an overview of where else your users might go.

There's also site stats showing number of other sites which link to that site, a speed rating and an Amazon ASIN number! Add to that a stripped down whois information display, some categorisation, and some odd stats created by uses of Alexa's toolbar which shows how many pages from the site that Alexa users view each day.

But the créme-de-la-créme. What's one of Amazon's best features? User reviews. And there they are. Reviews of the website from other users. Unfortunatly they seem rather buried away - it would perhaps seem more logical to have the User Reviews link directly on the search results page rather than buried within Site Info. Admitedly this may be temporary until they get some more reviews in the database which would make it a far more useful feature - currently they're rather limited.

Whether all this is enough to make you search your site via A9.com is another matter. They don't seem to be the kind of features that will suddenly make it the worlds number one search engine.

However up to now, users have judged the quality of a website they've found in a search engine by looking at it and looking at it alone. Maybe A9.com has started re-writing the rules? Time will tell.

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