A9 has an impressive new service. It gives you a Yellow Pages search, plus on-map-locator, plus the ability to place a call with found businesses, plus (in ten cities) 'walkable' pictures of the streetscapes in which the business sits.
It allows you to find and ring libraries for example, and if you are in one of the 10 cities where they have so far done the work, to 'photo-really' walk past the library building.
This is embedded in what John Batelle calls Amazon's 'architecture of participation'.
Up to now, A9 has been essentially a clever set of innovations on top of Google (GOOG) results. I had to ask Manber the obvious question: With the new Yellow Pages, A9 is clearly moving into a new strategic realm by competing as a search platform in its own right. It's pushing Amazon's virtual-commerce business model -- where you can buy anything you want online -- into the bricks-and-mortar local retail space. Amazon wants to be part of any kind of commerce. Isn't making a major commitment to local search an admission that A9 has moved into the big leagues, where it will face Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO)? "We don't look at it with strategic intent," Manber responded. Never one to be drawn into competitive implications, he continued, "If I find a really great idea that can make a difference in search, and I can do it with a small team, I'll do it. This shows how search can be improved by anybody." [Business 2.0 :: Online Article :: Features :: A9 Lets Photos Do the Walking]