January 27, 2005, 12:00 AM

Yellow pages go visual with Block View at Amazon’s A9.com

The search engine subsidiary takes local search to another level with 20 million curbside photo views of businesses in more than 10 U.S. cities. “A9.com Yellow Pages let you see where you are going before you get there,” says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.


Amazon.com’s search engine subsidiary, A9.com, has launched local search with a visual component in the form of Block View, a feature in A9’s Yellow Pages, which provides a street view photograph of businesses listed in the Yellow Pages. The feature launches with approximately 20 million images representing businesses in more than 10 urban centers.

To use the Block View feature, visitors type a business name or category into the search box on A9.com, selecting “Yellow Pages” on the home page. That brings up a list of local businesses with an interactive map showing their locations. Clicking on a listing brings up a detailed page with the Block View photo, if one is available, which lets users scroll to either end of a wide-vista shot to see the business’s building exterior from different angles.

Other tools available include a click-to-call option that lets users call a business with a single click of a button. The feature uses technology that phones the user and the business simultaneously–users pick up their phone when it rings, and they’re connected to the business. A tie-in with MapQuest brings up an address, phone number and driving directions, in addition to the interactive map, for each listed businesses.

“Yellow Pages have not changed much in a hundred years,” says Udi Manber, A9.com CEO. “With Block View technology, we are bringing them to life.”

To capture the photos, A9.com sent trucks equipped with digital cameras, GPS receivers and proprietary software to photograph the street views of the buildings in which the listed businesses are located, logging in “tens of thousands of miles” in the process, according to Amazon. With only a handful of cities covered by Block View so far, A9 is still building up its photo database. One way is through the photo contributions of A9.com users-there’s an invitation to share digital photos of businesses for which images are not yet available on the site.


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