Alexa’s Search Platform

John Battelle writes about a potentially game-changing service by Alexa (owned by Amazon).

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. And then, anyone can run that new service on Alexa’s (er…Amazon’s) platform, should they wish.

It’s all done via web services. It’s all integrated with Amazon’s fabled web services platform. And there’s no licensing fees. Just “consumption fees” which, at my first glance, seem pretty reasonable. (“Consumption” meaning consuming processor cycles, or storage, or bandwidth).

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).

In other words, Alexa and Amazon are turning the index inside out, and offering it as a web service that anyone can mashup to their hearts content. Entrepreneurs can use Alexa’s crawl, Alexa’s processors, Alexa’s server farm….the whole nine yards.

Michael Parekh adds: “…it IS an out-of-the-box move that potentially enables a fountain of creative, search services that emerge to take advantage of what I’d call an “Index Utility” business model that Amazon/Alexa proposes.”

Om Malik writes: “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 – is trying to inflict death by a thousand cuts to rivals including the GYM Gang.”

Nicholas Carr writes:

Whether Amazon’s looking to make money or make it harder for rivals to make money, the move does look like something of a watershed. What’s interesting is that it separates, or unbundles, the “engine” that, in a real sense, powers the web from the applications of that engine. And it turns the engine into a cheap commodity. It’s not hard to think of what happened when another engine – the steam engine – became a commodity a couple hundred years ago. An incredible number of applications of steam power were rapidly invented. Now, the search engine is far from the steam engine, but the example shows what can happen when you commoditize a basic piece of commercial infrastructure, giving a lot of people and companies access to it. The big question is: Are there a whole bunch of incredibly valuable search applications to be invented, or will this just set off an explosion of cute mashups? We’ll see.

Danny Sullivan comments: “I guess I get to be the underwhelmed one about Alexa announcing a new Alexa Web Search Platform that’s available to anyone willing to pay a fee…Pay a fee for what? You can create your own search engine by tapping into the 4 billion web pages Alexa has indexed over time. You can search against the entire index or just a selected set, in case you want to make your own vertical search engine. It’s hardly new territory.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.