That’s the question we found ourselves asking last week when Amazon announced it would be eliminating several key features of its A9 search engine. What is A9 you ask? Well that my friend may be the true underlying issue at hand.
Amazon launched the A9 search engine back in April 2004 with the core idea that search results could be vastly improved if one could meld consumer behavior and mathematical algorithm. Amazon tried to do this by capturing search history for individual users and improving subsequent search results based on prior behavior. Over the past two years Amazon has added a number of features to the engine including maps (with block level imagery), yellow pages, and a robust toolbar. Amazon also created an attractive marketing plan for the A9 by providing users with an instant reward program where they received a discount on all Amazon.com purchases.
Unfortunately A9 never really managed to penetrate the uber-competitive search engine business. According to Compete numbers their search market share never topped more than 0.01%. Even when you look at their numbers from a loyalty perspective, A9 users aren’t particularly heavy users of A9.
So the first shoe dropped a week ago when Amazon announced that they had "redesigned the A9.com website to make it easier and quicker to discover information." What that meant in actuality was they were dropping the following; user login, search history, toolbar, maps, yellow pages, block level imagery, and yes the Instant Reward Program with Amazon.com. To replace all that they added a new user interface and continuous scroll search results. A9 has more or less abandoned all of the features that made it unique in the marketplace.
According to our community toolbars are pretty popular. Over 64% of our members say they use some type of toolbar on a regular basis. In fact when we asked about a variety of standard add-on software tools the only type that garnered more use than toolbars was Anti-Virus software.
Our data shows that the vast majority of people using A9 were also Amazon.com shoppers.
As for the search history recall "¦ maybe we can point our fingers at AOL on this one, but right from the start, that was really the defining characteristic of A9. So from where we sit we’re not sure who’s going to be left using A9 with the Amazon discount no longer available and the defining features pretty much eliminated. We’ll have to wait and see but I think I might hear the other shoe about to drop.