Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What's open about A9's OpenSearch?

A9 announced OpenSearch today at the Emerging Technologies Conference. OpenSearch is a list of specifications of how other search engines can make their search results available.

Wait, what was that? Other search engines?

Yes, the idea behind OpenSearch is that other search engines can be listed on A9 if they obey A9's specifications for publishing their data. The "open" in OpenSearch is other people opening their search engines.

No, A9 itself doesn't publish access to its search in OpenSearch format. Accessing and republishing A9's results is prohibited by their terms of use, you silly goose. When they said open, they meant you could be open, not them.

A9's OpenSearch initiative would have a lot more credibility if Amazon and A9 started by providing unrestricted access to all of their search engines in the OpenSearch format.

[OpenSearch announcement via John Battelle, Werner Vogels, and Danny Sullivan]


Massimo said...

Hi Greg,
as much as I agree with you (and as much as I'm happy to see a contrarian view), I still think it's smart (if not so open) of A9 to move in this direction. At least small sites could gain free visibility, anyway.

Greg Linden said...

Thanks, Massimo. It is nice for A9 to push an initiative to make it easier to build metasearch and multisearch engines.

Most metasearch engines typically have to do some form of screen-scraping. Standardizing on an RSS-like format for publishing search results does make it easier to build new services layered on top of many search engines and databases.

But it would be unfortunate if only small sites joined OpenSearch. That's why I think Amazon and A9 should open up their search. Their example could encourage widespread adoption of OpenSearch.