Jeff Barr of Amazon.com was in town last week and spoke at the Thursday evening UPHPU meeting. His position at Amazon.com is “Web Services Evangelist” — he spends a lot of time traveling to talk about Amazon.com’s web services.
Web services are “backdoors” to websites. For example, a popular app called Fetch Art lets Mac users download all the album art for their iTunes songs. It uses web services to connect to Amazon.com and look up all the albums. Other popular sites with web services are Google, Yahoo, HotOrNot, and Flickr. A fairly complete list can be found at ProgrammableWeb.com. The point of web services is that web sites and apps can be connected together (sometimes called “remixing”) to provide more interesting and powerful applications.
Amazon.com’s web services allow people to make money using Amazon.com. Almost 1 million people sell their products on Amazon.com and over 100,000 people earn money by selling Amazon’s products as associates. Jeff pointed out several cool websites that use Amazon.com web services to change or improve or niche the buying experience:
- TV Mojo — a website by a guy in Logan, UT, that only sells TVs. It uses Amazon.com product information but has a very clean, uncluttered look.
- ScoutPal — lets you book check prices from your cell phone. For example, if you see a cheap book at D.I. (they’re all cheap) you can find out whether you should buy the book to sell for a profit on Amazon.com.
- liveplasma — shows music recommendations with floating bubbles connected by curvy lines — cool
- HoneyComb — shows products graphically with different colors and sizes — cool
Jeff also pointed out that microformats are essentially half way between websites [scraping] and full-blown web services. Microformats allow for structured data to be embedded in a web page so it looks the same to a person but can also be interpreted by a computer. For example, you might list your mailing address on your website, and while it would look normal, it could be directly downloaded into someone’s address book program.
Take-away for the layperson: the “new” web — they’re calling it “web 2.0” — combines previously separate services (HotOrNot on a Google Map, or Amazon.com album covers in iTunes) and anyone can do it.