Buzz at the moment is on how Amazon has thrown its hat into the social networking arena with the online shopping giant’s recent acquisition of patent for a ‘social networking system’.
How Amazon plans to use the patent is The Question. Its social network patent was approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office last Tuesday, meaning that Amazon may be planning to offer similar services to social media users as those provided by Facebook, MySpace, Google Buzz and Friendster.
The patent “provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users” and “automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.” Ring any bells?
Back to The Question: what Amazon will do with this patent? The history is that Amazon planned to develop a network service (PlanetAll) which it acquired in 1998. However this was shut down after two years in 2000.
What Amazon may plan to do now is a little mistimed considering the level of competition in the current market. Pre-MySpace and Facebook, Amazon had the technology and the concepts but it culled PlanetAll and absorbed its features into Amazon’s Friends and Favorites technology.
Does Amazon hope to compete on a large scale with the likes of Facebook and Friendster? Would it seek legal avenues to enforce its rights to the patent, trying to make other networks change their current models?
This is unlikely in my opinion. It’s more likely that Amazon would use it to build its own social network based around its products and services, in order to benefit the sharing of information and increase sales.
With so many different types of social networks around at the moment and the many more we will surely see in the future, each changing how web users interact and find information, I am keen to see what eventuates and to find out what Amazon can bring to the social networking table.