A9watch, etc.

News, reviews, and commentary about A9.com, other new search technologies, and related topics. Send news, inquiries, and rants to randalldotnewton atgmaildotcom. Subscribe at http://feeds.feedburner.com/A9watchEtc.

Friday, April 30, 2004

GMail Invite Auctions Stack Up; First $200+ Auction Closes

Being first isn’t always such a great thing. While my eBay auction for a GMail invitation sits at $7.00, with 5 ½ days to go, other auctions, shorter in duration, are attracting the money. One auction just closed a few minutes ago with a winning bid of $262, and several “Buy It Now” listings have sold for $60.

As of this writing there are 70 active auctions and 45 completed ones. I am SOOO tempted to stop my auction and relist it for a shorter time!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Gmail Auctions Proliferate

When I launched an eBay auction to sell my one remaining invitation to join Gmail last night (see previous blog entry, below), it was the only such auction on eBay. There are now five such auctions open, with bid prices up to $15.50. Two auctions for Gmail invitations were listed with “Buy It Now” prices of $35.00 and $40.00; both have already closed.

Why the frenzy? It’s all about the ability to get a great user name. The general public can’t just go to gmail.google.com and request an account yet, it is by invitation only. The people who are willing to bid at auction for an invitation want to sign up for firstname.lastname@gmail.com, instead of having to settle for spdnugt394@gmail.com.

In the last three hours I have received three requests to close my auction and sell the invitation privately – just name my price, they all say. I tell them the same thing: Sorry, but I appreciate being in the good graces of eBay and would never stop an auction to sell privately.

All of the new auctions are 1-day or 3-day; I listed mine as a 7-day auction. Perhaps that was a foolish thing to do, given the frenzy that seems to be building.

Here are the eBay auctions now in progress (mine is first on the list):






Wednesday, April 28, 2004

For Auction on eBay: One Invitation to Create a Gmail Account

Tonight I noticed that Google is allowing existing users to invite two people to apply for Gmail accounts. I've already used one invitation -- I gave it to a reader of this blog. But the second one is now up for auction on eBay.

The opening bid is $1.00. The auction closes in seven days; I'll let you know how things turn out.

Happy bidding!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Update on Blogger and Gmail

It seems that our earlier report on gaining access to a Gmail account by joining Blogger wasn’t completely accurate. While existing Blogger account holders are being shown an invitation to join the Gmail beta test group, new Blogger account users are not being shown the invite.

Torn Between Two Lovers: Traffick.com’s Cory Kleinschmidt on A9

Here’s an excellent review of A9 from a veteran search-engine watcher. Kleinschmidt was initially reluctant to give A9 a chance, but finally took a detailed look.

His summary: “Because A9 is essentially the Google of the future, it may be tempting to divorce our old love, the only search engine we could truly trust to be faithful to us for the past five years… I’ll sure be cheating on my first love quite a bit over the coming weeks.”

Google’s IT Numbers Don’t Add Up

Here’s an insightful summary of recent reporting on Google that raises an important question: Just how powerful is Google’s technology? The answer seems to be that Google doesn’t really want us to know, at least not just yet.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Want Gmail? Get Blogger


An invitation to join Google’s Gmail beta test is the hottest ticket in cyberspace right now. Subscribers to Blogger.com are now being invited to apply for an account. So, if you want to give Gmail a try, set up a free account with Blogger, and then follow the Gmail link from the subscriber home page.

I started using my Gmail account yesterday, and found that, at times, site login was painfully slow. At other times it was about as fast as the average website. I’ve already sent in my first suggestion to the development team; I think Gmail would be a killer RSS newsreader, due to its built-in search.

Be the first to write to me at my new account: randall.newton at gmail.com

Blogger.com users are getting a chance to sign up for Gmail because Google owns Blogger.

Google's Avian-Algorithm Technology

Google reveals how their market-leading search engine REALLY works. (Warning: Not for the humor-challenged.)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful

"Too confining" an acquaintance wrote me when he heard I was starting a blog to cover just one search engine. And he's right. There are too many interesting things happening in search right now ... and it will only get more interesting in the days ahead. A9.com is a fascinating bit of technology, but it isn't the only search technology innovator.

So, we keep the URL, tweak the title, and move on. (The title of this post, by the way, is a quote attributed to Mae West.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A Search Engine By Any Other Name

What does A9 mean? It depends on whom you ask.

We tried the official route, and sent an email to Alison Diboll, A9.com’s official media rep: “Really it's just an eye-catching name.”

Next we went to the search engines (where else?) to see what the blogs were saying. At Christian Lindholm’s blog we found a link to a WIRED Magazine article about A9’s Ubi Manber, who led the development of Amazon.com’s Search Inside the Book before moving on to A9. “About the name A9,… [Ubi] Manber, … came up with the name by running a simple compression algorithm on the word “algorithms.” Algorithms begins with “A” and is followed by nine other letters. When Manber explains the name to me, he notes mischievously that another word can be identically compressed: Alexandria.”

In a Web Exclusive for Business 2.0 magazine, John Battelle interviews Manber about A9 and has a similar explanation: “But A9 -- the name stands for the nine letters in the word "algorithm" -- is a significant evolution.”

If these official and semi-official explanations don’t ring true, there’s plenty of speculation to be found elsewhere. One blogger wrote that A9 must represent the ninth option on the Amazon.com top menu, another that it is Amazon.com’s ninth attempt at a search engine. A third notes that there are nine letters in Amazon.com. The blogosphere is quickly going to become a dog chasing its tail on this one.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

A9 Site Info: Alexa in a Pop-Up

When you do a search in A9, there is a Site Info button following many listing. Hover your cursor over the button (Microsoft Internet Explorer only) and you get a succinct summary of facts about the listed site. (If using other browsers, click the button.) The information comes from Alexa.com, a site that, like A9 is owned by Amazon.com.

Using a search for “dmoz” as the example, hovering over the Site Info button for the first search result reveals:

Open Directory Project
Traffic Rank: 207
Sites that Link here: 71,143
Speed: Fast (0.9 seconds)
Online since: 01-Aug-2000

People who visit this page also visit:
Lycos, Inc.

Clicking on the Site Info button takes you to dmoz.org page at Alexa.com.

Alexa was founded in 1996 and purchased by Amazon.com in 1999. It uses its own search engine and the results of millions of users of the Alexa toolbar to compile statistics on Web site use, including traffic and linking patterns. Alexa has donated more than 200 terabytes of information on Web usage history to the Wayback Machine, an Internet archive holding more than 30 billion Web pages.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Value of A9: It’s The Data, Stupid

As usual with any popular two-way blog on a hot topic, the comments section following John Battelle’s original posting about A9 is overflowing with replies. Buried deep in this section is a wise assessment on the value A9 brings to search from Martin Tobias, a venture capitalist with Ignition Partners and founder of Loudeye. Since Tobias’ comments are so deeply buried in the comments section at Battelle’s blog, and since Tobias has not repositioned his comments on his own blog, we offer a summary here.

Comments on specific features are off the mark, Tobias says: “The real invention here, or should I say opportunity for invention, is at the data type level.”

Google, Tobias goes on to point out, is “still just doing HTML scraping. Ask even the Google guys and they will say search is less than 15% done. What is not done are many more datatypes like RSS, Atom, audio, video and lots more both structured and unstructured.”

Tobias then goes on to list A9’s strength, four proprietary databases “that add significant value to the search process.” The four are:

1. An individual’s Amazon preferences and buying habits;
2. Amazon’s personalization engine, arguably the largest e-commerce transaction database in the world;
3. Amazon’s "Search Inside The Book". As Tobias notes, “There is more content in books than on the web (and much higher value);”
4. The Amazon SKU database.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A9 tip: URL box as query tool

If you get inspired to a quick search on A9, you can type your query in your browser’s URL box. The form is:

A9.com/ query

Where “query” is your search term.

Well-connected blogger gets first crack at reporting A9 debut

Magazine columnist and Silicon Valley veteran John Battelle broke the news on his web log yesterday that A9 was live. Within minutes of his initial report, the news was ricocheting from blog to blog, into RSS feeds and only then out through traditional media sources. Today his interview with A9 president Udi Mander is a Business 2.0 magazine Web Exclusive.

If you read only Battelle’s blog account, you might get the impression that he was just a lucky Joe who happened to be in the right place at the right time—just another blogger standing watch. The first-person and personal nature of Battelle’s blog—like most blogs—encourages this view. But Battelle is no amateur; he is a well-connected reporter and editor whose career beat is the intersection of old and new media with Silicon Valley. He is a columnist for Business 2.0 and was a co-founding editor of WIRED. He did a tour of duty as CEO of Standard Media International, publisher of The Industry Standard, and was named a “global leader for tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He is also currently a visiting profession at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

So, one story behind the story is: Who worked harder to make sure Battelle was the first to report on the A9 launch, Battelle or A9? This isn’t about looking for conspiracies, but about understanding the PR process that occurs behind the scenes. It is one of the many angles we plan to cover in working, over time, to tell the full story about A9.

A9watch has RSS feed

If you prefer an RSS newsreader to a browser, you can now add A9watch to your Inbox items. The code your newsreader needs is at http://a9watch.blogspot.com/atom.xml. Please note, some newsreaders (or in some cases, older versions only) do not handle Atom code well. Sorry, but it’s all our blog engine (Blogger.com) provides at this time. If this blog takes off like we hope it will, we will move to a more advanced blog engine, hosted on our own site. Recommendations welcome, a9watch@aecnews.com

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Amazon.com Launches New Search Service A9.com

A9.com, a new search engine service from an Amazon.com subsidiary, is now live. Clearly marked as a beta version (industry slang for "test version"), A9 is unique among the growing pack of web search firms for combining Amazon.com's "Inside the Book" search capabilities with hooks into Google. It also offers the ability to keep track of searches, since users can log in with their Amazon.com User ID.

Amazon.com didn't try to keep its Silicon Valley-based subsidiary a secret, but news references to it before today are scarce. The most comprehensive early reports are a Newsweek article (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4571035/) primarily about Google, a Forbes Magazine mention (http://www.forbes.com/ebusiness/2004/04/13/cx_ld_0413fastest.html), and an Internet News item from September 2003 (http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article.php/3083751).

You are reading this report on A9watch, a new blog devoted to covering A9. To subscribe via RSS feed, point your RSS Reader to a9watch.blogspot.com/atom.xml.

Experienced technology journalist Randall S. Newton is Editor-in-Chief of A9watch. He also covers technology for architecture and construction at AEC Automation Newsletter, a subscription-based site, and writes commentary for CADwire.net.