Amazon's A9 Search as We Knew It: Dead!
Posted by Harry McCracken | Friday, September 29, 2006 5:32 PM PT
There's only one toolbar I install religiously on every browser on every PC I use: Amazon's A9 Toolbar, which gives me handy access not only to the A9 search engine but also to a set of personal bookmarks and a record of my searches which I can get to from any PC. For the past couple of years, all this has been as much a part of my computing experience as Firefox. And by searching on A9, I've been eligible for a 1.57% discount on Amazon purchases--tiny, I know, but hey, it's been free money and one more reason to shop at Amazon.
A9 has been responsible for some other inventive search-related stuff, too, such as the way its maps feature sported BlockView photographs of businesses
, taken by trucks which roamed the streets of major cities snapping pictures as they went.
Last week, I made a purchase at Amazon and noticed that it wasn't offering me my usual 1.57% kickback--I noticed its absence but didn't give it further thought.
And then today, I went to A9.com and discovered that my bookmarks weren't there. But a message
was, explaining that A9 is discontinuing the A9 Toolbar, bookmarks, the search history, maps, BlockView, and other features, as well as that little discount. In other words, almost everything I liked about A9 has ceased to exist.
The A9 search site itself
remains, with a spruced-up interface and its existing ability to search dozens of different engines and directories (using the OpenSearch standard
championed by A9) with one click. As metasearch engines go, it's neat. But it's not what made me an A9 fan.
You gotta interpret this as a dramatic scaling back of Amazon's once-lofty ambitions for A9. I don't know the backstory, but it's obvious that much of what made A9 unique has been replicated by Google and other competitors. And while BlockView was unquestionably nifty, it was presumably a pricey exercise, and perhaps one that Amazon wasn't able to monetize.
The good news is that I should be able to replicate most of what I liked about A9 with the current version of the Google Toolbar
and Google's Browser Sync extension
for Firefox. (Amazon will let me download a copy of my bookmarks that I can probably import and retain; my search history is, I guess, gone forever.)
If Amazon gave me any official early heads up that that I was going to need to migrate to a different toolbar and search tools, I managed to miss it. (It woulda been nice to have had my bookmarks moved out of A9 and into something else before my ability to get to them at A9 went away.) And I'll certainly miss those A9 goodies--I suspect that for the next few weeks, my mousing fingers will aim my cursor at the A9 Toolbar even though it's not going to be there anymore.
I'm not bitter, though. To paraphrase Pogo, I've never taken free online services too seriously--they ain't nohow permanent...