I just read Marc Canter’s brief thoughts on the A9 user interface. For those that don’t know, A9 is the new search engine by Amazon that has been met with some hype. Not only does the engine save your search history and allow you to display image, movie and book search results simultaneously, it also allows you to keep a diary and bookmarks on searches. Those diary and bookmark entries can then be searched alongside your normal web or image source. They’ve essentially created a web search application, rather than just another engine. Here’s the description from Why Use A9.com:
The web is easy to use, but using it well is not easy. We are inventing new ways to take search one-step farther and make it more effective. We provide a unique set of powerful features to find information, organize it, and remember itÃ¢â‚¬â€all in one place. A9.com is a powerful search engine, using web search and image search results enhanced by Google, Search Inside the BookÃ¢â€žÂ¢ results from Amazon.com, reference results from GuruNet, movies results from IMDb, and more.
Beyond just the features, the user interface is very straight forward, including resizable windows for your different searches and buttons on the right side of the screen that allow you to turn on or off different options such as image, movie, etc.
One thing I am a bit annoyed about is that the bookmark and diary functions are only available to users of the toolbar, which is currently only available to Internet Explorer users. I know it must be hard to develop multiple toolbars at once and IE is certainly the most popular browser, but if you’re trying to get adopted by an early adopter crowd wouldn’t it be a smart move to include a non-IE toolbar? Just a thought. I know I would have installed it and at least given the features a spin for my own curiosity, but instead I’m left to guess what it must be like.
Finally, I have some non-review thoughts on A9 and the future of search. I really like moving all these different features into one realm, but I must admit that I’m disappointed that none of them are social. Wouldn’t it be amazing if A9 used del.icio.us for it’s bookmarks and a blog-like application (or even Pasta, which allows people to write plain text diary-like entries and post them to del.icio.us). Add RSS feeds to the different functions and it’s an incredibly powerful tool that could really transform the web. (Hell, if you threw an RSS aggregator into the mix I can’t imagine I’d ever go anywhere else.) A9 has created something really interesting, but I would expect Google to take the reigns on this one being that they already have something like Blogger in place. It’s especially interesting in the face of all the Google browser rumors. I am impressed by Amazon for taking the lead and developing an innovative, thoughtful and somewhat-useful product, but I can’t imagine they’ll be able to keep up in the search game for long.