The news that Amazon has published an API for its Alexa Web Crawl is a seminal moment in the dawn of Web 3.0. The first thing that leaps out for me about the Alexa Web Search Platform is that — shock, horror — Amazon is charging for the service. Of course, regular readers will surmise that I'm not shocked at all. AWSP is doing what any commercially viable API service has to do: it asks users to pay in proportion to their consumption.
It's all still experimental, of course. Amazon doesn't knowImagine, an Alexa-driven search engine funded by Google-driven ads which of its $1-per-unit pricing plans will prove to be the most lucrative or the most popular. But grappling with these questions is miles better than trying to fudge the issue with some kind of ad-funded model. Because anyone who stops to think about it for a moment must surely realize that funding API services with advertising is a fool's quest. Who's going to see the ads, after all, unless you're proposing to compromise the integrity of the data with extraneous ad material?
What's even more interesting is that, by imposing a proper separation of concerns with its consumption-based pricing model, advertising can now be seen for what it is — a service in its own right.
Imagine this scenario, which could come to fruition within a matter of days: using AWSP, a developer sets up a vertical search engine serving a market that attracts high-value pay-per-click advertising. The developer monetizes its new search engine by carrying Google AdSense. Yes, that's right, an Alexa-driven search engine that's funded by Google-driven ads. At a stroke, it becomes obvious that Google's wealth doesn't come from the fact that it's a search engine funded by advertising. It comes from the fact that it's a pay-per-click contextual advertising engine, which also happens to run its own search engine.