Amazon Jumps on Web Services Bandwagon

Amazon.com has launched the first phase of a Web services offering, giving Web developers free access to Amazon content and features and saying there is more to come.

The company said it hopes developers using its tools will enable visitors browsing other sites to buy Amazon products and start Amazon purchases. Developers also can use Amazon content in other ways, such as linking news articles to books about related topics.

The Web services feature is also integrated with the Amazon Associates Program, through which partner sites can earn fees for referring shoppers to Amazon.

Joining the XML Pack

In addition to extending its reach on the Web with its services debut, the e-tail giant is aligning itself with current hot technology in the Internet space. Developers can access Amazon’s Web services through two industry standards: XML (extensible markup language) and SOAP (simple object access protocol).

According to Forrester Research, Web services have the potential to “drive productivity gains by making it easier for firms to collaborate.”

“What they’re trying to do here is create goodwill with their associates and partners, who will then be more likely to generate extra sales for Amazon,” Morningstar.com analyst David Kathman told the E-Commerce Times. “Amazon is doing whatever they can to reaccelerate growth in their core U.S. book-music-video business. Increasing sales through associates would be a part of that.”

More To Come

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos indicated that more Web services offerings will follow.

“We’re putting out a welcome mat for developers,” Bezos said. “This is an important beginning and new direction for us. Developers can now incorporate Amazon.com content and features directly onto their own Web sites.”

Another indication that Amazon plans to pursue Web services appears at the site where developers can download the Amazon tools. There, Amazon seeks feedback from Web site builders and lists job openings for software engineers to build next-generation Web services products.

Open to Suggestions

Amazon said its services offering helps developers harness the store of product information housed at the e-tailer’s site, data that is often cited as a major competitive advantage for Amazon.

At the development site, Amazon suggests using the services tool to “create a six-degrees-of-separation game that attempts to match seemingly unrelated products through Amazon.com’s ‘Customers also bought’ links.”

“I don’t imagine it costs Amazon much to make these Web services available, so they wouldn’t need a ton of extra sales to make it worthwhile,” Kathman said.

All Eyes on Earnings

The move comes as Amazon readies its second-quarter earnings report, to be released next week.

The report will cover a quarter that has been one of Amazon’s most active in terms of new initiatives in some time. For example, Amazon has lowered its threshold for free shipping, launched new promotions aimed at beefing up sales of electronics and kitchen items, and debuted its Canadian Web site.

Analysts also might be scouring Amazon’s earnings for any sign that its sales have been affected by the aggressive moves of competitor Buy.com, which has eliminated shipping fees altogether on many items and has vowed to undersell Amazon on books by 10 percent.

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