Successes and Failures of Amazon’s Growth Strategies: Causes and Consequences

  • com Search Portal (2004 – 2006)

In 2003, Amazon founded A9, an independent company, in Palo Alto, California, with a mission to develop technology for search and advertising. Headed by Udi Manber, former Chief Scientist at Yahoo, A stood for Amazon, and the 9 letters in the word “algorithm”. The search engine war for Amazon was about to begin.


In early 2004, the search engine industry was lucrative yet crowded. It was led by the big three – Google (39.4%), Yahoo (30.4%), and MSN (29.6%) – followed by AOL (15.5%) and Ask Jeeves (8.5%).21 There were 151 million active internet users in the US, 76% of whom spent nearly 40 minutes a month on search.


Product search for shopping was a critical domain for Amazon – a search engine was an intermediary to draw traffic to and the company spent heavily on advertising for popular search keywords like flat screen TV and Apple iPod.22 Amazon wanted its own searchengine to gouge out Google’s market share, and ensure it would be less vulnerable to other search engines.

In April 2004, a search portal was launched. The A9 search engine had a simple interface like Google’s and used Google’s search technology, sharing advertising revenue through AdWords. But search results were displayed differently: laid out in expandable columns grouped by sources to reveal pages, images and reference materials (see Exhibit 10) It also provided product search results from, encyclopaedia from Wikipedia, movie information from IMDb, and website information from Alexa. Additional panes, which could be hidden, included book search results and the search history of the user. The A9 search engine aimed to go beyond Google by becoming the first personalized search engine. The “Search engine with memory,” as it was dubbed by Udi Manber, enabled users to organize and retrieve past searches, which could be deleted. To sum up, the A9 search engine let users edit their search results in expandable columns as preferred, and manage their search and web history.


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