SEATTLE – Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) A9 search engine has dropped some of its most widely touted features, including the ability to remember everything a user has ever searched for and a service that showed detailed, street-level images of major cities.
The Internet retailer removed the functions, along with several others, late Friday.
Amazon.com spokesman Drew Herdener said the company is "shifting its priorities to areas where it can provide the greatest benefit for customers."
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A9 had put considerable effort into taking detailed, street-level photos of 20 U.S. cities, which people could use to map directions and find businesses. Google Inc. (GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) also have invested heavily in such photographic search technologies.
Herdener said it was too early to say what Seattle-based Amazon will do with the technology and images now.
Amazon.com's search engine division also had touted its highly personalized approach, which encouraged users to log in so that it could remember their searches.
Now, the site won't ask users to log in or accumulate such data, Herdener said.
Herdener said Amazon.com would retain the search histories it had accumulated but didn't have any immediate plans to use them.
Amazon.com also is discontinuing a toolbar that helped keep track of such information. People who used the service will be able to retrieve their own personal data, such as Web site bookmarks, by following instructions on the A9 Web site.
A9 also has added some other new functions, including the ability to display search results as a continuous list rather than in one-page blocks.
Herdener said the A9 division also will continue to work on improving the search results on the Amazon.com sales site.
Amazon.com's Web search engine is powered by Microsoft's new search technology, called Live Search. The company previously used Google's search engine.
Amazon also offers results from other sources, such as Wikipedia.
Despite its big-name parent, A9 hasn't gained much traction among users. It ranked No. 32 among search engines in the United States, accounting for just 0.1 percent of all searches, or 3.2 million searches, according to August data from Nielsen/NetRatings.
Google ranked first with more than 3 billion searches in the same period.