July 17, 2002 1:30 PM PDT

Amazon opens Web services shop

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Amazon.com is catching the Web services wave.

The e-commerce superstore has set up a new program that will allow third-party Web site operators to incorporate features and content from Amazon's site into their sites. Web site operators will be able to incorporate Amazon's product reviews and descriptions, as well as its search system, wish lists and other features. Amazon will not charge Web site owners who use its features.

"We think it will improve their Web sites, increasing traffic to their sites," company spokeswoman Patty Smith said. "Theoretically, it will drive more purchases and more commissions (to the Web site operators)."

The program builds on Amazon's long-standing affiliates program, which pays commissions to Web site owners for referring customers to Amazon. The commissions can be as much as 15 percent of the price of the item. Under the affiliates program, however, site owners could only display a simple link to a book or product on Amazon.

Amazon's release of its features as Web services follows by nearly two years a similar move by e-commerce rival eBay. In November 2000, eBay launched a program for developers that allows them to tap into its application programming interface (API). Using Extensible Markup Language (XML), third-party companies can use the API to display eBay listings on their own Web sites.

Amazon's Web services program allows developers to tap into Amazon's features via XML or Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), an XML-based standard that allows two businesses to communicate and exchange information over the Internet.

Although Web site owners can use the features and content from Amazon, they can't use them to sell products that they themselves carry, Smith said. Instead the features are meant to direct sales back to Amazon.

Web site owners also won't be able to use Amazon's popular one-click feature on their Web sites, because it is not a part of the Web services program, Smith said. Instead of one-click, which allows customers to purchase an item with just one step, using saved address and payment information, third-party operators will be able to use Amazon's shopping cart, she said.

"This is just the first version," Smith said. "We want to see how people react and what people do with it. Our intent is to improve the service as it matures."

 

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