Yellow pages on Amazon

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]

Comments: 0

Jan 28, 2005
Thom Hickey

Looks interesting, but can't say I was impressed with their image coverage of Chicago. This is going to take an awful lot of images.



--Th

Jan 29, 2005
John Kirriemuir

Curious that they make a big thing of their image coverage and collection. This is one example of many where video gaming technology has achieved something before (usually several years before, and better*) information retrieval technology or services.

Compare the Chicago image coverage with that of the Chicage circuits in Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox game):

Those cities you see in Project Gotham Racing 2 are quite real, down to many of the storefronts. Microsoft flew the developers at Bizarre Creations to each of the cities where they took reference photos to be used for texture maps and building modeling. While that was going on, the legal teams were working with thousands and thousands of international business owners to get their real logos onto the buildings, to try to replicate that real-world feel as best as possible.

The A9 system seems little more than a map-index flat archive of stills, with questionable localised coverage. Perhaps that is all they need for their system; however, it also lacks context. Which is easier to remember for a shop location: "121 Acacia Avenue", or "The shop next to the outdoor ice rink"?

* = as an exercise, compare the complexity, number of simultaneous users, synchronicity of data exchange, and other aspects of online game play with that of many contemporary online information retrieval systems.