February 26, 2003 5:11 PM PST

Amazon wins retail chat patent

Amazon.com has received a patent for an online retailing chat technology, marking the company's latest push to appeal to more consumers by adding customer-centric features.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded the patent, which protects Amazon's technology that lets customers join in on discussions and share information regarding an item for sale on the site. The technology is not yet a part of the Amazon site. A company spokesman would not comment on whether the company was considering implementing it anytime soon.

"We never say when we will, or won't, do something," Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said.

The technology differs from current customer commentary features on the site in that customers can start a discussion thread or join a discussion and comment on each other's reviews. The person starting the discussion thread also can indicate whether it's a public or private correspondence, according to the patent, which was awarded Tuesday.

The technology addresses a continuing issue for Web sites--how to entice people to linger on their site. That strategy is born out of a belief that the longer people remain on a Web site, the more apt they are to spend more money and remain a loyal customer. Web sites, as result, took to adding such free features as e-mail and calendars to their sites during the late 1990s.

Amazon's discussion technology also includes graphics such as an "add to shopping cart" button, a "start a discussion" button, a "join a discussion" button and an "add to a discussion" button.


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