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The Internet

A9 Search Engine Launches Yellow Pages 157

vmalik writes "The A9 search engine has launched a Yellow Pages service, and the listings in major cities include photographs of the storefronts. The site also contains information on how they did it. It seems to be pretty good with lots of store images and driving information from MapQuest."
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A9 Search Engine Launches Yellow Pages

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  • Current? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KontinMonet ( 737319 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @09:48AM (#11491368) Homepage Journal
    Cool idea, and keeping this up-to-date will be a nice little earner for someone. Presumably, photographed stores will tell A9 when things have changed... or will there be a two year delay?
    • Re:Current? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:03AM (#11491479)
      I just updated information for the company that I work for. What is really odd is it lets ANYBODY change ANYTHING. In something obscure enough you could probably enter information about your competitor which would make anyone informed know that they suck. So, that's sort of a minus. I don't know if they're going to check the info I updated or what.

      Their interface did not give me a chance to upload a picture. You can only "share a picture" if you're a customer. Being I'm an Amazon customer, I reviewed the business as 5 stars but will not shill it out by writing a review.
      • What is really odd is it lets ANYBODY change ANYTHING

        That is odd... It seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen at this point almost. I wonder if/who a store could sue if someone put a defamitory description on this thing.

        -Jesse
    • The images are already pretty out of date. I live in portland so i did a virtual stroll up broadway to see if i could spot anybody i knew. There were some businesses shown that i thought went out of business last year. I went up Harrison and it showed the street like it was before it was torn up for a light rail extension, which had to have begun at least a year ago.
    • The Manhattan pictures are about 1.5 to 2 years old as far as I can tell. That's pretty useless here, since it's the life expectancy of an average restaurant or bar. It's interesting, but not very helpful, to see a picture of a restaurant at the same location of where you know two other restaurants started and closed since.
    • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @12:24PM (#11493019) Homepage
      So I decided to play with it for a moment and see how cool it was. I did a search for a couple restaurants and shops nearby. It didn't have a listing for any of them, with or without photo. So I decided to search for something obvious: Dave and Busters.

      The entry came up with a photo and everything, but the photo was wrong. They had the right block but they were off by about half a block. Impressive technological feat to be within half a block, but it makes the technology totally useless.

      In the case of D&B, if you scan up the street you can see the big orange and blue awning and find it. But then I knew the street and so knew which direction to scroll when I saw that they were off. So now they combine the sometimes humorous inaccuracy of on-line maps with a new level of inaccuracy using street level photos.

      You may be better off asking for directions from a real person :)
      • by Saige ( 53303 )
        And if you look at the pictures of the street, when you scan over them, there's an option to select one of them as the 'best photo'. I presume that would alter which is shown to people.

        Even if you don't know the business, that scanning over the street is sure to help you find the location, since now you can see what's around. And even if you've never been there, if the actual business is in a different photo than the original shown, you likely can help select the proper one for it.

        They were able to get
  • nobody uses A9 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 27, 2005 @09:52AM (#11491408)

    A9 is like Google and Claria combined, with webbugs, click tracking and paid inserts all tied to your Amazon cookie which is tied to your credit card
    it only exists to maximise Amazon and their partners (those who pay the most) revenue

    at work we classify A9 as a "severe privacy threat" and therefore it is blocked at the firewall

    • Re:nobody uses A9 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:04AM (#11491489) Homepage
      it only exists to maximise Amazon and their partners (those who pay the most) revenue.

      So... how is this different from most businesses? Not to be a free-market fundie or anything, but at least one of the motivations for all businesses is to earn revenue. A9 has decided to earn revenue for it's owners by providing better features to and tighter tracking of it's customers. However, I fail to see how what A9 is doing is different than the paid inserts or supercookie that Google uses, or for that matter the wealth of info that Yahoo keeps on it's customers. Some businesses can be said to only exist to increase revenue for their owners. Look at all of the old software that is "supported" for the sake of businesses at extortionist rates and without any updates. Compared to them and a lot of other software businesses, A9 is pretty customer-focused.

      I hate to say this, but if people keep spouting words like "severe privacy threat," when actual severe privacy threats (like Claria) arise, people won't listen.

    • "A9 is like Google and Claria combined, with webbugs, click tracking and paid inserts all tied to your Amazon cookie which is tied to your credit card"

      What Amazon cookie? You mean you allow them to set a cookie on your machine? I don't.

    • at work we classify A9 as a "severe privacy threat" and therefore it is blocked at the firewall

      What about the cookie-free http://generic.a9.com/ [a9.com]?
  • Funny thing is, I just went to the home page and I see it greet me with my name. I'm like, "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!" ... then I notice the "How do we know your name?" underneath and click on it. Stupid me, I should have known that A9, being wholly owned by Amazon, would use Amazon session cookies to identify users. Sometimes, I really amaze myself.
    • I was freaked out too when it knew the town I lived in. I thought I removed all the cookies since I last purchased a book through Amazon. Kind of cool though.
      • When I RTFA'd, they mentioned that if they don't have any direct info about you, they'll use an IP->ZIP translator/database to guess where you are. They were a couple towns over from where I am.

        -Jesse
    • I should have known that A9, being wholly owned by Amazon, would use Amazon session cookies to identify users.

      Get tougher on cookies. I clean mine out multiple times per day, and rarely allow more than 3 or 4 to overstay their sessions (and two of those are Slashdot's!). With Mozilla, you can even leave the "Manage Cookies" dialog up and watch 'em as they come in; then it's just a click to get rid of the ones you don't want.

  • ... travel the world! (May I have the job? :)

    Really - "spidering" the country... Dear. Will they refresh the info every year? No? How often then? I now understand what all those flying cams are doing in HL2.
  • I wonder how much it would take Google to come up with something similar.

    Another case where competition is benefic for the end-users.
    • How is this different from Google Local? Looks the same to me, unless I am missing something. anyone?
      • I don't know.... maybe the block photos! I think it is pretty sweet. I'll keep this in mind next time I'm going to a new restaurant and I'm glad there is competition between Amazon and Google. If A9 continues competing well and coming up with these new ideas, it could be a cool place to work.
  • In my ohnest opinion, it won't be too long before google comes up with something better.

    It is worth mentioning, though, that A9's improved searching capabilities do provide much needed competition for google.

    Not a bad idea though from them, it must have cost them one hell of a lot of money to do though.
    • Right, so LET THE GAMES BEGIN! I find this kind of competition very interesting, and fun to follow.
    • Seems like one hell of an idea... how long until we will see this showing up at the patent office? For once, it seems like a nontrivial, more or less innovative idea, combining a cam with GPS.
      • They're not the first.

        Heck, they're not even the first to be profiled on Slashdot. There was an insurance company, or maybe a supplier of data to insurance companies, a few months ago doing the same thing, if I recall correctly.

        And then there's The PennDOT VideoLog [164.156.5.83].

  • by Enigma_Man ( 756516 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:01AM (#11491458) Homepage
    I was taking a virtual drive around Boston, and could clearly see many people's faces. Do those people know that they're photographed, and on the internet for all to see?

    Otherwise, very interesting. Some of the storefronts for businesses I know of were one or two pictures off to the left or right though, guess they're still working out the bugs.

    -Jesse

    • I was taking a virtual drive around Boston, and could clearly see many people's faces. Do those people know that they're photographed, and on the internet for all to see?


      There is no legal problem. When you're in a public place (e.g. on the streets of Boston), anyone can photograph you and publish the photos.

      But IANAL :)
      • Why is it then that television stations always have to blur out faces of people that they didn't get to sign their permission sheet things? Or... is that a thing of the past? Or is it just an ethical thing, not a legal thing?

        -Jesse
      • The law varies from state to state. There are privacy laws (which would not be violated here), and publicity laws (which may be being violated).

        There's a whole host of rules and regulations about when you need to get permission and when you don't for photographs of people, places, and things.

        A good article is here [photosecrets.com].

        It seems news media usually get away with photographs of identifiable people in states with publicity laws under a fair use exemption for newsworthy reporting. In some states the publicity law
    • I noticed this too.

      For anyone who needs an example, search for 'sears' with zip code 60641. You'll get a picture of a store called 'Hats Plus' with only the edge of the sears store visible in the leftmost photo.

      Now search for 'hats plus' and you'll get an imagine even further east along the same strip mall. You can verify they're next door by comparing the rightmost pics of the first search to the leftmost pics of the second search. Looks like the whole thing is about 50-100 feet off in that area.

      Now,
  • Hmmm.. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • by justinstreufert ( 459931 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:05AM (#11491492) Homepage
    It looks like they kind of botched it. I'm not surprised, given the lag and inaccuracy of GPS in an urban environment (tall buildings = imperfect coverage) and the overall insanity of the whole project.

    Basically I searched for some things in New York, and got some cool images. Not once was I looking at the actual storefront I asked for. Once, I was able to find the store by moving left two images down the block (a neat feature) but the next time I searched, I was not even on the same block with the restaurant I was looking for. Next search, there was a giant truck in front of the store I wanted. Woo!

    It is really entertaining to walk up and down the block and take a look at all the poor slobs who A9 caught scratching themselves on some streetcorner. I wonder when we can count on the first lawsuit?

    Justin
    • I can't believe this is idea is a big deal. Haven't most geeks been using Microsoft's Terraserver to get overhead sat images of locations they're going to be going to and using them as a guide once you reach the general location of your destination? Even though the photos are from a top-down perspective, they usually help me find the business I'm looking for when I'm in the neighborhood.
      • You're not a geek unless you automate the process of using Terraserver to get aerial (not satellite) photos of locations you're going to be.

        Real geeks automate this [parkrrrr.com].

        And if you automate this [parkrrrr.com], you're beyond hope. (It's hard to see, but that's a Terraserver image used as a backdrop in GPSPilot Tracker for the Palm.)

    • What would be nice is to trawl the journey of the truck throughout the day into a video.

      I wonder if it caught some people in first floor apartments getting undressed? neato.

      I say it is a funky idea, and in the land of GPS enabled cameras, and the amazon 'I found this helpful' system (google needs this on page search results... with accounts etc, yes it can still be screwed over) people will be auto posting GPS encoded info to the amazon site for bonus points of purchases, and free pic hosting.

      Just becaus

    • Big Dunkin Donuts truck in front of pizza restaurant [amazon.com]

      Seems to be a fairly common occurance unfortunately.

  • A bit inaccurate (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Its view of what is a storefront is a little odd, I put in Chicago and hot dogs and got pictures of empty parking lots, cars, caribou coffee, and no image. But none of those I views seem to have a hot dog place yet.

    Of course Mapquest has had me driving into the lake many times but maybe they need to add pattern recognition to there pics for error checking, there should at least be a building in the shot :o)
  • Irony (Score:3, Funny)

    by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:09AM (#11491520)
    I wanted to use A9 one day, so I googled for it.
    • You think that's funny, but my Russian Literature professor actually uses MSN search to get to Google. I suppose it must be somewhat common for people who haven't that much experience with computers.
  • Plumber (Score:3, Funny)

    by barcodez ( 580516 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:10AM (#11491532)
    Searching for plumber [a9.com] brings back some interesting images....

  • http://a9.com/cheeburger [a9.com]

    Kinda neat... I go to cheeburger cheeburger, its a real popular place near my house for burgers.. It even showed a jpg of the menu! and the fat asses eating burgers and on the wall of fame for eating a one pounder.

    Get a FREE Mini Mac http://www.freeminimacs.com/?r=14172807 [freeminimacs.com]

  • The link in the article ("launched a Yellow Pages service [a9.com]") doesn't actually link to the Yellow Pages service.

    Here's a direct link [a9.com].
  • Hmmph - it has been at least half a decade since I have used the Yellow Pages for anything more than looking up pizza delivery places.

    I can't think of a more annoying, inefficient, and time wasting publication. If there's one that that I would love to see be replaced entirely by technology it's the Yellow Pages.
    • Yellow pages web sites are neat are much more handy, but I'd always want to have an old fashion hard copy around. Quite often when I need to use it, it is for something fairly urgent, if I need an electrician or a plumber quickly I may not be able to look something up on the net.

      I definately dig the more technological alternatives, but I wouldn't want them to replace the big book completely.

    • The one time I use them is for looking up car repair/parts shops.

      I like to read the ads in the yellow pages for these types of businesses. ie I was trying to find some new tires for my car so I opened up the yellow pages and all of the tire places had adds telling me what types of tires they carry... so I knew which ones to call (I was looking for specific tires).

      But, I agree, I don't use the yellowpages very often... only if I need a good smattering of local stores for a specific purpose.

      Friedmud
  • Brothels (Score:4, Funny)

    by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:24AM (#11491655) Homepage Journal
    Hey, how can I search for brothels? That ought to deliver some cool pictures :)
  • Slow.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MasterOfCeremonies ( 853832 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:25AM (#11491666)
    I agree, the project is insane. It is inherently inaccurate and unmaintainable in the long term. A9 certainly has some very nice features, my problem with it is that these features slow the whole thing down so much (at least over the lake here is Australia). After being used to the lightning speed of Google I find myself impatient with A9.
    • It's just attempted by the wrong people. Haven't you ever played Flight Simulator and wondered how long before the world was actually really completely simulated. This is the start of that. Search anything. Any book, any building. If you're the FBI, any person.

      The problem for Microsoft is that these projects really belong on a server. Now that we can send email and write documents, all the exciting stuff is on the web. And people play games on consoles.

      I imagine after Blue Gene, IBM may attempt thi
    • Time from typing A9.com and hitting enter to a usable page: 23 seconds.

      Time from typing google.com and hitting enter to a usable page: less than 1 second.

      Performance first. Features later.
  • Yellow pages? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Underholdning ( 758194 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:25AM (#11491668) Homepage Journal
    This is not a yellow page searh. This is a web search with some added functionality. There's a big difference. If I search in a YP for "restaurant ohio" I want a restaurant in Ohio, not a lot of webpages about "ebook - the secret about Restaurant Ohio in Mexico".
  • crap (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This service is horrible. Being from NYC I searched for a store, and it didn't even come close. The addresses seem to be off or something. And if you try to scroll through the map it is maddeningly buggy. You can't change the map by hitting "south" or "west". Just real crap. The web page is also filled with ads and other invasive stuff. I will never use it.
  • I'm curious as to why A9 returns Google clickthroughs at the bottom of the page as "Sponsored Links" when you search for something generic.

    So in the http://a9.com/plumber example, you'll find A9 directs through Google at the very bottom. I guess they need to make a dime somehow.
  • In Paris, we have photos of builings on Pages Jaunes [pagesjaunes.fr] (the french yellow pages) for many years. I remember that I was already using this feature in 1998.
  • by jj00 ( 599158 )
    To Save Space...

    They can use the same picture for all the Best Buys, Wal-Marts, etc...
  • Non-cookie version (Score:2, Informative)

    by slyguy135 ( 844866 )
    Don't forget you can use http://generic.a9.com/ [a9.com] so they don't keep track of you (or at least don't LOOK as if they're keeping track of you...)
  • Ok, it's not bad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by digitalgimpus ( 468277 ) on Thursday January 27, 2005 @10:31AM (#11491733) Homepage
    Though I do wonder how useful that will ever be.

    It's not perfect, and the landscape is constantly changing. How often do they plan to refresh? How will they even do that?

    A block in NYC can change dramatically in a year. Kind of hard to keep those pics up to date. Take a building down, put a new one up, or just remove the scafolding, and it looks like a different block.

    Just my $0.02, but I think keeping that up to date and useful is going to be nearly impossible.
    • Looks like they've included the ability to "share customer images." I wonder if they are expecting users to fill in the missing data.

      It might not be inconceivable if this catches on. The Amazon rating and review system is pretty widely used. Aside from some astroturfing, I've generally found it to be pretty useful to look at user-volunteered info. And it seems like this would be an instance where astroturfing would be welcomed. If it catches on, it would be in the best interests of small businesses
  • White House (Score:2, Funny)

    by brownpau ( 639342 )
    No image available. [amazon.com]
    Duh.
  • Considering the number of times Mapquest has sent me down roads that weren't even there, I've given up on them.

  • As far as I can tell, A9 is asinine. Maybe that's what A9 stands for.

    The web site is so heavily weighted toward pushing advertising that it is just disgusting.

    It's amazing that other people cannot learn for Google's success.

    Asinine Manager #1: Hey, why don't we imitate Google, and not abuse customers?

    Asinine Manager #2: What! Customers like to be abused! Didn't you know that?

    I put in an address in Portland, Oregon, and selected Within 1 Mile, and it changed the selection back to Within 5 Mile
  • A) COPS race. Any number of players can play. SEt a time limit (say 20) minutes. Pick a city. Score points for who can collect the most instances of:

    1. Criminal Activity
    2. Law enforcement officials
    3. Men with their shirts off
    4. Bodily fluids.

    B) Product Place-a-thon.
    THey've probably already figured out they can use the "car passing" technology demoed in the xmas lights hoax [komar.org] and are digital inserting posters, vans, newspapers and any number of other things.

    C) Date the drive. Using context
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The French yellow pages http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/ [pagesjaunes.fr] put online pictures of the streets of Paris France a few years ago. They did not use a van but good'ol pedestrians with Nikon digital cameras. It was perhaps in 2001 or 2002 if I remember correctly. Now you can visit Paris for free ;-)
  • The french Pages Jaunes (yellow pages) have had this for years: http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/pj.cgi. It is extremely handy.
  • Hey, now British Telecom can sue Amazon!
  • Or does A9's results look like a bunch of ads? I really can't see what I'm getting at A9 that I couldn't be getting at Google *without all the ads!*

    --
    http://www.coingo.net/freemacmini -- Get a FREE Mac mini!
  • This seems like a potentially great service, but clearly there are some issues that they need to work out.

    I think that the fact that most of the store-front searches are one or two stores off will not be a huge problem. Amazon has provided the users with a way to easily specify which is the "best picture" for any given search. I think the user base will quickly refine the accuracy of the image search using this feature. Store owners themselves perhaps might take the time to make sure that their store
  • They missed Houston, which is slightly larger than Chicago. Not cool, but everyone since Jeanne Michiel Jarre seems to make the same omission.
  • ...they have managed to give the abstracted and impersonal internet a touch of reality.

    SERIOUSLY cool idea.
  • As usual, my home town of Detroit isn't in the list, nor is my current town, Indianapolis, in spite of both of them being fairly large population centers. /still waiting for XM traffic for Indy...
  • All major cities in France have been mapped this way: with photos of all streets numbers. So if you look up an address in the white or yellow pages, you get a view of the address's building.
    The company that started it (in 1996, I think, three young guys, a scooter and a digital camera at the start) is now part of France Telecom and has mapped major cities in France, now doing Spain. The stuff is really cool and very handy for prospective tenants, buyers for housing!
    Examples:
    http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/pj . cgi
  • Since more than three years, Pages Jaunes (Yellow Pages) from France Telecom has a included in his search service a link to pictures of the address front. You can even virtually walk in the streets of Paris, using their interface to photos.

    Make a search there ( [pagesjaunes.fr] using for example:

    nom: Follies Bergere
    localite: Paris

    In the answer you can click in the Photo link and voila (May be you can see the dancers getting into the theater ;))

    Amazon implementation is interesting. They have done great in terms of inte
  • Ahem. Methinks that the San Francisco crew could have been a bit more careful in which photos they use.

    Look here [amazon.com]
  • There's this site called NowTowns [nowtowns.com] that's based in Corvallis, Oregon, which is where I live. It's pretty cool, they have photos of almost every business that's on their site (inside and out), full restaurant menus with photos of the items and prices and thigns like that. I dont know if they're planning on expanding or not but I imagine they'd at least want to go to Portland eventually.

    Local sites just can't be that cool, unless they're ACTUALLY local, which is why I think NowTowns is kinda neat. It only cat
  • They seem to have the same problem with address formats as all the other map sites. NYC has very regular geography, especially in Manhattan. But A9 doesn't recognize "101 W71St", which most New Yorkers would recognize, and enter. There are many variations, like "101 West 71St", "101 W71 Street", "101 West 71St Street", "101 West 71st St"; how about "340 Columbus", "340 Columbus Ave", "340 Columbus Avenue"? These variations are at least geographically unique, so the parsing engine should map them all to the
  • by pen ( 7191 )
    One of the pictures shows them driving across an intersection with the traffic light for the perpendicular street changing from red to green. Amazon ran a red light!
  • They provide a "best image?" tool for calibrating the location of the photo, and other ways for users to customize/modify the returned data. Some folks have noted that this may invite abuse from users.

    Remembering that this is Amazon, they can limit updates to logged in users, even to users who have made clean credit card transactions. This would help eliminate most abuse.

    Some have noted that the locations are sometimes off by a block or something. I noted above that you can correct data for a locatio

  • In trial mode in London currently, GoNumber.com [gonumber.com] has featured photos for a while, but we carefully position ourselves to get the best picture - even taking night time shots of restaurants to make them look more inviting - the yellow glow thing. A new version of GoNumber.com is in the works, based on open source of course and featuring a slew of innovations. That said, we're a bit smaller than A9 and their owners, so we may need to talk to them.

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