idea: three ways to improve amazon

Quick Summary (in order of importance)

  • Adopt openID
  • Opaque Attention Data
  • Subscribe to users’ events

Amazon.com’s site is fantastic. I get great recommendations, and I’ve started buying more and more stuff from them. However, there are a couple of things I’d like to see from them, technologically.

OpenID Provider

OpenID should be supported everywhere. There’s no reason not to do it. I wonder how much money is lost simply because a user fails to complete tasks related to registration and authentication. Usability directly impacts the people’s ability to spend money on your services and goods. If they can’t log in, they can’t buy from you. There are still many many users who are learning how to register for the first time. The internet is still gaining users at a tremendous rates, and even in America, the saturation into homes is low in certain parts of the country. Enabling users to use your website means making signing in and registration easier. It’s just good business sense to support openID. (We might call a hesitatation to support openID the “not authenticated here” syndrome.)

Finally, the most important reason for a retailer to support openID: associate selling. Let’s say I have a plan to make money by using my associate ID to sell things for Amazon. With openID, I can help the user check out and purchase their items from all kinds of venues that Amazon may be unable to support! If Amazon supported openID, I imagine associates could help buyers buy even more stuff by making it that much easier to find their stuff and purchase items.

Attention Data Services

With their relatively new line of web services, I’d like to see a way to tap into the power of their attention data. It’d be great if they assigned some people to help out with the attention microformats efforts. Wouldn’t it be great, as a developer, to leverage Amazon’s stored attention data as a web service in your own offerings? In addition, your service could push the results back into to Amazon, increasing the value of the offering. Of course, this can only be done if they align themselves with the principles of Attention Trust or something like it. Remember, that such a thing would also enable them to further improve their recommendations to end users. Google, and other companies, even companies like Alexa could put their attention into the pot, with the user’s permission of course. As AttentionTrust suggest, users would have to expressly allow this usage, but also can expect a huge value in return. (The principles include the concept that users own their data, can find out who is consuming it and how, and can revoke and remove their data at any time.)

Further Personalizations using Semantic Web

Why in the world is Amazon hosting blogs now? They’d do much better to leverage the blog platforms already existing; even subsidizing open source blog platforms (such as wordpress) would be better. If they really wanted to take it to the next step, they should consider letting users tell Amazon to subscribe to their calendars and whatnot. When an event is coming up, Amazon could knowledge about your events to help you purchase supplies necessary for traveling, such as plane tickets or other travel supplies, or help you select gifts for an upcoming birthday, wedding, anniversary…. (Have you seen their wishlist features? They are awesome.) As someone’s birthday comes up, they might notify you and suggest an item from their wishlist, apropriately suggested from both parties’ purchase behaviour, and perhaps other factors.

Of course, most any service could impove by adopting and implementing these ideas. I know I’m hard at work implementing them on my projects, and I look forward to seeing what happens when everyone implements features than enhance everyone’s offerings, and improve web usability altogether.

The semantic web is ready. Users are waiting. Why are we?

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8 Comments

  1. Posted January 6, 2007 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Short and sweet re-“Further Personalizations using Semantic Web” I think Amazon is trying to be all things to all people. They probably feel the need to control the entire process themselves, and feel nrvous about losing business when if they were to deal with existing blogs.

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