In a surprising retreat, (NASDAQ:AMZN) is dismantling many of the features that helped make its search engine stand out from the crowd. Things like the A9 toolbar, intricate street-level mapping, and the Instant Reward program that gave active A9 users a 1.57% discount on purchases are all history.

It's true that the site didn't gain a whole lot of traction. It was never going to make a dent in Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) MSN, and IAC/InterActiveCorp's (NASDAQ:IACI) Yet it didn't have to. A thin, savory slice would have been better than a bland, even thinner one.

A stripped-down version of A9 just isn't fun. Even when I followed the herd to Google for my searches, I still made it a point to check out A9 whenever I needed detailed BlockView snapshots of an unfamiliar establishment that I was driving to. There is nothing wrong with Google Maps, but BlockView allowed me to get a good look at the restaurant that I was going to that night.

The timing of the dismantling may sting. Even if the discount was meager, it would have come in handy as we head into the start of the holiday shopping season next month. A9 also provided search histories of logged-in users in far more detail than browser-stored data offers.

In its present form, A9 is now just another metacrawler-come-lately. It will scour Amazon's collection of books as well as results in Windows Live, Wikipedia, and (NASDAQ:ANSW), but its personality is gone.

If that's gone, there's no point in sticking around as a browser bookmark, either. Amazon, you made the decision to strip A9, but you might as well let it go.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been shopping online for about as long as has been in business. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.