Monday, April 17, 2006

What will become of A9?

Now that CEO Udi Manber left, what will become of A9?

My understanding is that Amazon created A9 around Udi and his vision for search. If true, the loss of Udi likely will change A9 and its direction, especially since traffic growth is flat with little signs of traction.

Anyone have any thoughts what they might do? What they should do?

A9 gets its search results from Google, so they may have relatively little investment in web search. Where will they go? I could see a range of possibilities.

Rather than focus on web search, perhaps A9 could switch to shopping metasearch. Shopping metasearch would focus on where Amazon has the most expertise -- shopping -- while still partially defending Amazon against the threat of disintermediation by Google and other web search giants.

A9 could switch to focusing on AdWords and AdSense-like advertising, building on the success of Amazon Associates. A9 would compete with Google not on web search, where Google has a strong advantage, but on advertising, where Amazon has its massive catalog and experience selling products to leverage.

A9 could focus on web services, emphasizing selling Amazon's shopping search technology to other e-commerce companies, much like Google does for intranet search with Google Enterprise. I suspect this would be a modest business for Amazon, but it would fit with Amazon's recent push for web services.

A9 could jump forward to execute on massively distributed web search, an area few others are exploring that is one approach toward opening up the "invisible web". To do this, A9 would have to expand its "search columns" to accessing hundreds of thousands of databases, then tackle the challenging problem of intelligently determining which available databases are most likely to provide the best answer to a given query (since you can only query a small subset of the databases in real time). Tough nut to crack, but this space is wide open.

A9 could fade away from lack of momentum and interest, like Auctions, zShops, web-based calendaring (PlanetAll), metashopping search (Junglee), and other saddening past Amazon experiments. I fear this may be quite likely.

What do you think will happen? Do you have thoughts on other likely directions for A9?

Update: One year later, A9 has suffered an 80%+ drop in traffic. It appears "fade away" may turn out to be the correct prediction.


Anonymous said...

amazon's quickly becoming microsoft, in that one or two core businesses generates 99% of the profits and everything else loses money. In MSFT's case that's office making money, and everything else (including MSN, XBOX, etc.) losing money. In amazon's case it appears to be selling books, music & video with some merchant services thrown in on the side.

Losses and mis-steps are to be expected from some R&D, but if amazon follows microsoft's path they'll basically end up no better offer 10 years from now than if they jettisoned everything like A9 now and just stuck to selling stuff online.

Anonymous said...

Amazon knows the location and interests of many of its visitors - it should be doing shopping metasearch and classifieds metasearch with A9. Why let Google Base and Vast have all the fun?

Scott said...

A9 is just sucking away money and for what? It should be shelved. Regarding the first anon comment, I think taking such risks are needed. I mean, had not tried the Used Books sale, would that have blossomed? I'm not certain what sort of revenue they bring off of that, but I imagine it's a pretty penny with very high profit margins since there are no costs except software/minimal customer service from's side. (No warehousing, no shipping, no handling returns, etc.)

Also, while certain stores may not be profitable, part of what makes Amazon tick is that it's the WalMart of online - you can get anything there, so it's a great first destination for many.

However, I agree with Greg's commentary - there are a lot of abandoned Amazon side projects. And that's OK. Better to jettison a failed project then let it hang on and suck up time/$$$. Let A9 go the way of the dodo...

Anonymous said...

Well it is official is Dead to me.

The only good thing about search was the yellow pages. And I don't mean the photographs of local businesses (but that was useful sometimes). It was by far the best yellow page source on the net. But it is gone now and so am I.