A9 is kinda cool

This week the big search news is that Google’s index now contains more than 8 billion pages, almost twice its previous size. Not a suprising annoucement given the growing murmers about Microsoft’s new search which was announced last night.

Neither announcement is particularly significant, but taken together, they show that there is, once again, a bit of competition in the web seach space. Bigger indexes are interesting, but evolutionary. Microsoft’s relevance may or may not be better, but its not the sort of thing thats immeditely obvious. Microsoft also allows one to adjust the way search results are weighted in three dimensions, allowing one to weight newness over relevance, for example. It seems like it could be cool for some searches, but sounds suspiciously like some cheap widget added to differentiate the offering without actually adding much real value.

What I found really interesting this week, search-engine wise, is A9.com, from Amazon. A9 has been around for a while, and I don’t think they made any real annoucements this week, but I finally gave them a closer look.

I’ve just started playing with it, but here are some of the cool features

  • Search history — So you can easily rerun past searches to look for new items
  • Diary — Lets you add notes on pages you find
  • Bookmarks — lets you access bookmarks from any computer
  • Discover — starts making reccomendation of pages based on your search and browsing history
  • Lists — Automatically parses out lists on web pages, such as site specific search engines, topics in discussion forums, and lets you easily navigate through each link in sequence. You can also select a blob of text, and make a list from that, which you could use to visit all the links in a paragraph.

Most of these features are enabled by the A9 toolbar, which is available on Mac, Windows & Linux and supports Firefox.

This featureset starts treating searching the web not is some isolated atomic activity, but as part of a larger process of finding and processing information.

There are some downsides to A9. The toolbar has some real privacy issues that I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with in the long run. But for now, I’m happy to experiment.