First, let me start off with a quote from a friend of mine after I told him I was writing this.
Jeff: You realize you’re saying that your worlds are search engines and The OC.
Maybe in Geekland everyone lost their homes because your world’s collided.
So here’s the story. I was planning on writing a bit about Amazon’s new features for it’s A9 search engine yesterday but I didn’t get around to it. Then this morning I was doing my regular RSS reading and ran across this entry from Capn Design titled “So, I A9.com’ed Him Last Night”. It turns out that last night on The OC, a show for which I am quite fond, Lindsay was quoted saying “so, I A9.com’ed him last night,” about Kaleb (or is it Caleb? Anyway, for those of you that don’t watch, is her father as well as her boyfriend’s grandfather via adoption).
Yesterday, A9 introduced a new Yellow Pages that has a ton of cool features, the coolest of which lets you see the business you’re searching for. For example, if you search for Spring Lounge in New York City (which happens to be one of my favorite bars), you see this picture:
You can then move up and down the street with the pictures. It just adds a new level of local knowledge to local search. I’m not exactly sure how useful it is, but there’s no denying it’s very cool. Here’s A9’s explanation of how it was done:
The most powerful technology A9.com invented for Yellow Pages is Ã¢â‚¬Å“Block View,Ã¢â‚¬? which brings the Yellow Pages to life by showing a street view of millions of businesses and their surroundings. Using trucks equipped with digital cameras, global positioning system (GPS) receivers, and proprietary software and hardware, A9.com drove tens of thousands of miles capturing images and matching them with businesses and the way they look from the street.
The whole process (except for the driving!) is completely automatic, making it fast and efficient. Block View allows users to see storefronts and virtually walk up and down the streets of currently more than 10 U.S. cities using over 20 million photographs. We are driving and at some point hope to cover the whole country.
This, however, is not the only cool feature. Along with the photos is a “Click to Call Business” button. All you do is click it, put in your phone number and it rings your real phone and connects you. Once again, not sure how useful it is, since you could easily dial the number, but it’s definitely a cool feature.
In the end, I’m very impressed with the stuff A9 is doing. Though I don’t think they have taken ideas as far as they need to go (as I wrote about in this entry), they are definitely bringing some much needed innovations to search. For that they should be commended. Big ups to A9.