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Amazon.com tiptoes into search arena

Quiet challenge to Google et al

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Online retailer Amazon.com is the latest company to join the crowded ranks of the web search engine market dominated by the likes of Google and Yahoo. The company is gradually changing from an online retailer to a web technology vendor, but its ambitions on the wider search market remain to be seen.

Amazon's California-based subsidiary A9.com was in charge of the launch of the search engine towards the tail end of last week, which is still in beta test phase according to A9 officials.

Details of the engine are sketchy at this stage, but it is expected to support both standard website and Internet Explorer toolbar options for search. But unlike most other Internet search tools, A9 allows users to sign onto A9.com with their regular Amazon.com usernames and passwords. An "anonymous" site login feature is also available, but is lacking in some functional areas says A9.

The toolbar also includes a novel "diary" tool to let users note down details on particular sites which can be fed into an online log and read by other system users.

Interestingly, Amazon's move will also lessen A9's current reliance on Google's search engine, which supplies it with search results, and its own Alexa subsidiary, which provides website traffic analysis and information on other sites of interest.

The company has been curiously quiet about last week's launch. It seems as if the search capability is primarily aimed at helping Amazon's online customers to find product information from its online stores faster; for example, searches can be restricted to just Amazon.com products. What is unclear at this stage is the extent of Amazon's ambitions on the wider Internet search market.

The launch does reinforce Amazon's strategy of keeping its eCommerce search technology as a separate business entity, which in turn is part of the company's continued evolution from an online retailer to an Internet technology services vendor.

Amazon will be entering a fiercely competitive field. Even Microsoft plans to launch its own search technology later this year.

Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor

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