Hoping to become a more popular Internet destination, a small search engine owned by Web retailer Amazon.com is testing a mapping service that will display street-level photos of the area surrounding a requested address.

The A9.com service, which became available Monday, joins the increasingly crowded field of online mapping. Other major players include America Online's Mapquest.com, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft's MSN.com.

A9 is counting on an index of 35 million photographs spanning neighborhoods in 22 U.S. cities to distinguish its mapping service from the rest of the pack.

The search engine first began to post street-level photographs of specific addresses earlier this year as part of its Yellow Pages listings.

The new service extends that feature by posting photographs of entire city blocks alongside a traditional map showing a grid of streets.

A9 believes the street-level photos will provide a more helpful view than a recent Google mapping upgrade that provides a satellite eye's view of neighborhoods.

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