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It was widely reported today that A9, the search engine operated by Amazon, has pruned its branches by getting rid of several features and products, largely focused on location.

This is from a Reuters article earlier today:

The A9 Toolbar, maps, Yellow Pages and a personalized diary and bookmark features are no longer available as of last Friday, a spokesman said.

In a White Paper we plan to publish tomorrow, we more or less saw this one coming. Here is what we say:

Other new features may not make it because of the brutal realities of the marketplace. We suspect that photos showing whole city blocks may be in this category. This opinion is based largely on our normative observation that this feature hasn't caught on with many providers (not to mention it's undoubtedly expensive to keep current).

This decision by A9 suggests the challenges involved in making visual content work, given what it takes to collect it and keep it current.

There are publishers, particularly in Europe, that continue to invest in visual Yellow Pages, notably PagesJaunes in France and more recently Seat in Italy. Also, the popularity of Google Maps suggests visual search has a place. What A9’s decision shows (yet again) is that the simple act of doing something novel does not a business make.

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