Amazon is so close to being a “social network” that God tells me it seems like they must be deliberately holding back.
Millions of people have Amazon accounts. We go on to their site and spend time looking at things. We don’t post status updates, but we post product reviews. We even tell them about things we already own, when they recommend that we buy them. We establish connections by connecting the wish lists of friends and family to our own accounts. We tell them other places we like to hang out by buying gift cards and by adding things from other sites to our Amazon wish lists. And don’t even get started talking to a privacy nut about the things Amazon can tell about us by what things we buy, by what book titles we look at, and by what things we tell them don’t interest us.
So what’s stopping them from going the rest of the way, what’s stopping them from becoming a true social network? God says they could do it if they wanted, but that they just don’t feel like it yet. He says they could go from recommendations by collaborative filtering to recommendations by direct collaboration.
One of the big activities of teen girls is hanging out at the mall, going from store to store, and goading each other into buying things they don’t really need. Imagine that in a web browser. You have multiple panes open in your Amazon tab, in one pane is the trendy pair of jeans that your best friend just recommended, which Amazon has helpfully translated from their size to yours, in another is the latest CD by Matchbox Twenty, which you just noticed is on sale, you drag it over to your friend’s icon and you both preview the songs together, bitching and giggling all the way.
Okay. Taking the mall experience online? Maybe God is right and Amazon just isn’t ready, but even if they were, I’m pretty sure I’m not.