Amazon-owned A9 never had much consumer usage but it was one of the most innovative and interesting search engines, with many distinctive features. Two of those features — Maps/Block View and Yellow Pages — are now gone. Udi Manber, the professor-cum-CEO of A9, left for Google awhile ago. Since that time the site has been rudderless.
A9’s street-level “block view” early-on helped ignite the mapping feature competition that is still playing out among Google, Yahoo!, MSN and AOL (MapQuest).
Amazon has kept certain of A9’s defining elements (e.g., multi-panel search interface) but made the site somewhat simpler and more familiar from a consumer point of view. Block View was probably also a cost center that didn’t yield an ROI.
But the culprit here is Amazon, which wanted to develop its own search engine to compete with Google (A9 powers site search on Amazon; web search on A9 is in turn powered by Microsoft). But the shopping giant never really put much promotional muscle behind A9.
I don’t suspect it will do so now. And given how entrenched the general search market is, don’t expect much to change despite the changes at A9.