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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Amazon seeks share of searches
Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in a scene from The Misfits, Free
A9 used Clark Gable to illustrate its range of results
Amazon has taken the training wheels off its A9 search engine.

First unveiled in April, the A9 engine has been revamped and in its latest form returns five different sorts of results to queries.

As well as websites A9 returns data about movies, books, reference material and images connected to search terms.

A9 is just one of many sites trying to moving search on by getting away from keywords and provide fewer but more specific results.

The site also lets users search through their own search history, bookmark useful sites and write and store notes about websites.

Dividing results

The A9 search site has been revamped by Amazon signing deals with other firms to provide different sorts of results to queries.

A9 takes web index data, images and adverts from Google, information about movies from the Internet Movie Database and reference material from Gurunet.

Google also gets a cut of the cash A9 generates from Google-served adverts running on the site.

As well as using Google's web index, Amazon is also using the Alexa search technology it owns to compile some results.

Amazon's own Search Inside the Book service is used to return data for the book results.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon boss, AP
Amazon hopes A9 will boost sales
Users can see the different search results by clicking on topic buttons stacked on the right-hand side of the main A9 page.

A9 used Clark Gable to illustrate the range of results it returns. Searching for the film star's name returns a long list of websites dedicated to him, plus biographies from the Amazon store, stills, reviews and listings of the films he made, plus a couple of biographies.

Anyone with an Amazon account can sign in to the A9 service to use the bookmarking, diary and history features. Weblinks can be dragged and dropped from the search results to the bookmark category.

The results that A9 returns are tuned by reference to the past searches that users have carried out. A9 will also make recommendations of sites that others found useful when using the same search terms.

"In a sense it's an extension of your memory," said Udi Manber, head of A9. "You find things you've seen before. You find things that you don't know you've seen before."

A downloadable toolbar gives users another way in to the diary, bookmarking and history features of the search engine.

Less is more

With the revamp, A9 is matching efforts of other search firms such as Ask Jeeves, Blinkx, Copernic, X1 and X-Friend that try to go beyond just keyword searching of the web.

Instead these firms are trying to do a better job of working out what people want and give them much fewer results that are more tightly targeted and cover, for example, e-mail, local documents, video and blogs.

Some speculate that eventually A9 will add a category for PC search that indexes information held on a user's own machine.

Tony Macklin, director of product at Ask Jeeves said: "We believe that easy to use personalisation will be an important part of the future development of search."

He said the company looked forward to seeing how users react to the revamped A9 search site

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