It is nice that people thought yesterday’s posting was funny. There is however a very serious aspect to it. From the reactions I understand that people think that posting IM handles is too far-out to even consider seriously, which made it a good April’s Fools joke. For me, I do not believe it is ridiculous for a company to engage in real-time interaction.
Amazon continuously innovates the way it interacts with its customers, trying to deliver a better customer experience. From the beginning that has meant engaging our customers to participate in ways that was not as common as it is now. Whether it is about discovering products that you may be interested in or about being as informed as possible about choices, about expressing your opinions or providing relationships, there is always a continuous stream of innovations happening at Amazon to improve the ways that customers can get value out of our services. In many ways this is still day-one; Search-Inside-The-Book is not an endpoint, it is a beginning. For example we now use book content analysis to provide relationships (sips, stats, citations, etc.) between books that was not possible before. And the possibilities to do more are endless.
In my eyes, instant messenger, weblogs, forums, tagging, wikis, etc, are infrastructure. Infrastructure in the sense that it is interesting in what you do with it, in how you use it to provide value. How it can be a vehicle to affect change. Amazon Connect looks to some people like weblogs-for-authors; to others it does not meet all the weblog definition criteria. Whether it does or not is completely irrelevant, what is important is that we wanted authors to have new ways in which they could interact with their readers, and in that way this program delivers the extra value our customers (authors and readers alike) look for at Amazon. The program is very successful and I am sure we will be improving it in ways to make it deliver even more value. I don’t think anybody cares whether new innovations around Amazon Connect will make it look more weblog-like, more IM like, or be something completely new.
For me, everything is game in making Amazon.com the best place for people to look for products, to provide their opinions about them, and to help other customers make good choices. If the best way to achieve that would include posting IM handles, or developing completely new real-time interaction techniques that match Amazon better, we would certainly do so. More importantly, we will continue to push the envelope in any area to deliver a better service.
PS. I didn’t write this to start yet another debate, I just wanted to clarify that there was more to it than just a joke …