Amazon syndicates Web search

Online retailer's A9 search unit unveils technology that lets content publishers repurpose search listings for their own design.

Amazon.com has developed a set of technologies that let Web publishers syndicate specialized search results.

A9.com, the search unit of online retailer Amazon, on Wednesday unveiled OpenSearch, a protocol for content publishers to repurpose search listings for their own design. The system would allow a legal Web site to display a top list of legal resources, for example. Or a chess aficionado Web site could show search results for new chess games online.

"OpenSearch (is) an open format that will enable...search results to be displayed anywhere, any time," according to A9's Web site.

The technology comes amid widespread experimentation in Web search and with the content syndication format Really Simple Syndication, or RSS. Yahoo, Google, Microsoft's MSN and a host of others are testing new content-publishing tools that better connect people; yet they're simultaneously developing technology to help people find specialized materials online.

A9's OpenSearch is kind of at an intersection of the two. A9 bills OpenSearch as an extension of RSS, or the XML standard for syndicating content worked over for Web search syndication. "Rather than introduce yet another proprietary or closed protocol, OpenSearch is a straightforward and backward-compatible extension of RSS 2.0, the widely adopted XML-based format for content syndication," according to A9.

A9 has already solicited developers to create specialized "columns" of search results that can be syndicated. Those on its Web site include a search of The New York Times Web site or the National Library of Medicine archive of biomedical and life sciences journals.

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos announced the technology at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego.

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