Amazon is reportedly working to develop a web search technology that will help it compete against the likes of Google and Yahoo when it comes to directing consumers to merchandise online.

The internet retail giant has set up a subsidiary called A9 in Northern California to develop the search technology. And, according to a report in the online edition of The Wall Street Journal today, Amazon is recruiting a host of software engineers from Silicon Valley.

Amazon plans to market the A9 technology to other sites, the WSJ states, as well as creating and using the search service itself.

A spokeswoman for Amazon in the UK could not confirm the report, however. She said she "had no idea" whether or not it was true.

Amazon's purported foray into the e-commerce search service market comes on the heels of similar moves by a number of rivals including Google, with its Froogle service. Yahoo launched its own product search service earlier this week.

The search services offer large advertising opportunities for the companies, in addition to helping direct consumers to their wares.

According to the WSJ report, Amazon has interviewed candidates for about 30 positions at A9 in recent weeks. It claims several staff have been hired and are expected to start work on the new technology next month.