On September 15th, both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is taking at aim at Google with a new search tool called A9, which has some interesting KM features and bears watching. 

According to the articles, A9 is a “search engine with a memory.” Features include saving a record of searches and sites visited, annotating sites visited with personal notes, storing and editing bookmarks, and creating lists of web pages for easy navigation among them. I have long believed that saving searches and search results would be a useful feature for online legal research, document review in litigation support, and web surfing. Likewise, the ability to annotate searches or results is powerful.

The challenge, however, is converting data to knowledge. The more files, e-mail messages, saved searches, and other data an individual or organization has, the longer the search results hit list tends to be. While it’s good to be able to find prior work (writ large), absent sophisticated search tools that surface the best items or user-created annotations, results can be overwhelming and therefore not all that useful. It will be interesting to see if consumers / users of A9 use the annotation features and how they react once they have accumulated a significant amount of history.

If A9 takes off in the consumer market, it may set a higher bar for the tools that large law firms provide their lawyers. Capturing and re-using search results, especially if the searches span multiple law firm systems (e.g., document management, web surfing, and CRM) and are supported by appropriate finding tools (automated or human-assisted via annotations), could be a promising addition to current KM efforts.