Amazon’s Alexa Commoditizes Search

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 Amazon.com’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 – Amazon.com 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.”

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