Friday, December 16, 2005

Amazon's Alexa Opens Web Content to Do-It-Yourself Aggregation

With the ability to mash together content and technology from all sorts of sources into newly useful combinations gaining prominence the launch of Alexa Web Crawl this week(ClickZ News) makes it that much easier for innovative thinkers to create content aggregation services by using the Alexa cache of 4 billion Web pages and its search service to identify and publish content that's of key interest to specific audiences. Amazon's Alexa service will even provide hosting for your application if you're so inclined. It's a far more aggressive repurposing of content caching than even Google's promotion of its APIs for useful mashups - and one that probably opens at least as many questions regarding the repurposing of copyrighted content for potential commercial use. When all the world's a database the power tends to flow to those who can repurpose that global database most effectively - placing ever more pressure on publishers to package their content for maximum value in era of open content repurposing.

It also calls into question just how much longer search engine crawlers are going to be welcomed universally into the sites of content owners trying to attract audiences of their own. With Alexa's hooks into statistical ranking of Web sites the likelihood of Alexa being rated "crawler spam" is relatively low for now. In fact, such a product may help to alleviate the burden of crawlers over time if Alexa's caching can provide more effective information with fewer complications than direct crawling. But in The New Aggregation, an environment in which owning databases and distribution is less important than owning the context of content usage, publishers are going to have to adopt their product packaging and marketing for obtaining maximum value in far-flung contexts that are often many times removed from their point of origin.

Alexa Web Crawl is at the very early stages of its development but it augurs the development of more value from search-based applications that are removed from the search engines themselves. Welcome to the era of search publishing, where crawling content is just the first stage in developing valuable tailored online publications for focused audiences.
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