Amazon’s A9 Drops Local Effort

It is no surprise, since Udi Manber, its original leader, left over a year ago. But Amazon has formally abandoned its effort to launch Yellow Pages (and Maps) as part of its A9 search engine.

A9 received lots of publicity for the Yellow Pages and specifically, its BlockView feature, launched in January 2005. BlockView, originally “Find It On The Block,” enabled consumers to see pictures of local businesses and adjacent businesses, get maps, add comments, see related news and information, etc. It was produced by automatic digital cameras, laptops, GPS and a bunch of kids driving around entire cities in cars (and sometimes, due to mapping glitches, inadvertently driving over bridges out of the city).

More than 20,000 miles were covered in 20 cities and over one million businesses had had their pictures taken – a high percentage when one considers that many of the 12 million+ SMEs in the U.S. don’t actually have storefronts. In the end, however, the widely available satellite imagery that is now commonplace probably made the feature obsolete. Moreover, Amazon never put local sales channels in place, so it was never able to really leverage the publicity and develop an actual Yellow Pages business. It was cool, though.