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Amazon’s Alexa Commoditizes Search

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About a month ago Nicholas Carr suggested that Internet search was fast becoming a commodity, because there was very little differentiation between MSN, Yahoo or Google. That’s why all the action around toolbars, desktop widgets and desktop search.

Google knows this, as do its competitors. They’re all looking for ways to increase switching costs, or, as we used to say, make search sticky.

Carr made some good, though debatable, points. But even he couldn’t have predicted the ultimate act of commoditization – giving away the very index. John Battelle, reports that’s Alexa is planning to do exactly that, and will announce that as soon as tomorrow.

Anyone can also use Alexa’s servers and processing power to mine its index to discover things – perhaps, to outsource the crawl needed to create a vertical search engine, for example. Or maybe to build new kinds of search engines entirely, or …well, whatever creative folks can dream up……The fees? One dollar per CPU hour consumed. $1 per gig of storage used. $1 per 50 gigs of data processed. $1 per gig of data uploaded (if you are putting your new service up on their platform)….consumption charges” depending on “consuming processor cycles, or storage, or bandwidth.”

The argument thus far has been that it is tough to do the indexing, build the infrastructure and stay competitive. Only a handful have been able to compete with the GYM gang. Gigablast (my personal favorite) is one such search service. Still, no one has pulled an Alexa. Interesting move, but quite understandable. Amazon knows it has little or no chance of being a player in the search game. John thinks that by offering an “outsourced index” it become a player. I see it slightly differently – is trying to inflict death by a thousand cuts to rivals including the GYM Gang.

Updated: Gopi says, “funny thing is even Amazon’s own search engine A9 is not using alexa’s data but rather depend on google for a more comprehensive index.”

21 Responses to “Amazon’s Alexa Commoditizes Search”

  1. Opening up the search index to developers is inconsequential…90% of search users out want something simple, relevant and fast. Let’s remember that Google’s advantage is its brand…as much as its technology (bandwidth, etc). As long as “Google” is a part of the english lexicon…search viewed as a best-in-class technology is irrelevant. Much like Coke and Pepsi are basically the same…most people switched to Pepsi in the past few years not because of the formula, but because of BS (Brittany Spears).

  2. For me the interesting thing about this is that we’ve found Alexa’s rankings of sites to be wildly out of touch with reality, in both directions. In fact we stopped tracking their rankings because were literally useless compared to our own metrics. It is very possible that they are making this move because their original business model was not gaining traction…

  3. Well the funny thing is even Amazon’s own search engine A9 is not using alexa’s data but rather depend on google for a more comprehensive index :).

    But said all this,i can imagine how the search engine and email spammers would be excited about this :)

  4. That’s really good news for search tech developers! I would test their index or compare it with other ones. Let’s hope that Google, Yahoo! and MSN will follow up and open their Web indexes too. It’ll be the only way to meet a competition from Amazon.

  5. I love it. It’s a great move that will mobilise thousands of small developers in a way Google could have if they truly opened up their API years ago. This will not only give Alexa a bigger slice of the search pie I think it will grow the search sector through the unique search apps being developed.