Dec 18

Brady Forrest

Brady Forrest

Amazon's Wiki-Way

It's been widely reported that Amazon has invested in Wikia, a site for community vertical wikis. Though I didn't expect this, I am also not shocked at the investment. At their heart wikis allow anyone to create and contribute to a page on a site. Using that loose definition, this is not the first exprimentation with wiki-like feature on Amazon properties. It has come in (at least) two other places.

43things-logo-big.gifRobot Co-Op Sites - The Robot Coop is a small company made up of ex-Amazons that has taken an investment from Amazon. They have made several social networking sites; you have probably heard of 43 Things, 43 Places, 43 People and

On these sites, users are able to create new pages very similarly to a wiki. Once a new page has been created others users can add content to the page in the form of photos, tags, and stories about that thing, place or people. The pages that are created aren't wiki-pages in the strictest sense. They are structured pages and are not blank templates waiting to be filled in by any anonymous comer, but those wiki-like qualities give them a lot of utility and have led their sites to do well. The wiki-like nature of their site has led them to add new features, such as events, based on how people were using the site.

A further examination shows:

  • Any user can create a page - Any logged in user is able to create a new page on one of their sites. It's always in answer to a question: Where Do You Want to Go? (a place), What Do you want to do? (A goal), What Do you want to consume? (a movie, book, game, food, etc), Who Do You Want to Meet? ( a person). Once these pages are created photos can be attached, stories can be added, tags can be applied.

  • Any user of the system can add to the page - All of their sites allow other users to add content such as photos, tags, and written material. This is where the pages really get flushed out; no one person on the site can tell you all there is to know about a place, goal, or person. Just like on a wiki it becomes a collaborative exercise.

  • The user must be logged in - As with many social-networking sites they require you to be logged in to cut back on spam and associate it back to that account. Though not wiki in the strictest sense this is certainly a common requirement.


Amazon Site - On Amazon's product page (like for the Wii -- see the screenshot above) there is a wiki. You'll see the content from the top-level page of that product's wiki. If you click through you can add more pages, link to other sites, and modify the text. It's a full wiki with history and alerts. Based on the top wiki pages, use hasn't been made it very far out of the gamer genre. As the Amazon wikis gain in popularity I am sure that we will see it used not only for product info, but also for commentary like Amazon tags have been used (Boingboing reported that DRM products are being tagged with DefectiveByDesign).

Why is this important? Amazon is one of the most interesting companies on the net. They have a huge audience and are innovators. Other than Wikipedia, wikis have not taken off. I wonder if Amazon thinks it has found the right way bridge this gap to actually bring wikis to the average user and is making this investment in Wikia to get there own wiki platform to further these investments -- for its own sites, the Robot Coop runs seperately. Will they take this further and begin to allow users to actually create product pages on the Amazon site? Perhaps this will be a way that they can learn about new products that they should carry.

tags: web 2.0  | comments: 6   | Sphere It

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Comments: 6

  James Brunskill [12.18.06 04:40 PM]

>Other than Wikipedia, wikis have not taken off.

Says who? Sure, I don't think it has taken off to the extent of the internet, email and some of those things, but they are certainly being used by people for specialized applications all around the world.

We have a wiki on our intranet at work, the US intellegence community is using one, I setup a wiki to help some friends of mine write a book, and there must be a million other simiar projects around the world.

So, I wouldn't say they haven't 'taken off', prehaps just flying a bit lower than some of the other moon rockets that are flying around at the moment.

  Wilder (Scott Wilder) [12.18.06 09:41 PM]

When he said 'not many Wiki's have taken off,' I think he meant to say that not many public WIKIs have taken off and been successful. There are lots of examples of internal WIKIs. We have several at Intuit, but it's not the same an external Wiki. We do have on external WIKI that is getting some good traction, though. I could tell you how successful it is, but I will let you and Tim decide. : ) Happy Holiday. Wilder

  James Brunskill [12.19.06 12:00 PM]

Good point Scott,
I guess an internal wiki isn't truly a wiki in the sense that anyone can edit it.

I guess my point is that wiki's are certainly being used around the world by a large number of people. Even if we don't see a particular wiki installation take off to the extent of wikipedia, the long tail of smaller community based installations still means that wiki's are alive and well...

Lets face it, a wiki about tax information is never going to have a wide apeal as an encyclopedia, but that doesn't make it unsuccessful. In fact it might become the place to go for use by people needing and wanting to share tax information, so in the sense of reaching your audience it could be more successful than wikipedia.

  Nigel Cannings [12.21.06 03:28 AM]

Wiki may not have taken off as a standalone structure, but it has in conjunction with other technologies - Take - Community portal self-generated from e-mail, wiki and feed items, linked together with automatically generated tags.

One of the biggest problems that most web-based technologies face is that they are not particularly joined up, particularly for users who do not have the technical skill (let alone the will or time) to set them all up in one place, and put the plumbing in place.

  Fenk [03.12.07 05:14 AM]

Perhaps this will be a way that they can learn about new products that they should carry.

  Jason [04.04.07 12:42 PM]

An open local search engine my company just launched, Geothingy uses a wiki interface to allow users to add and remove URLs from the crawl database. Anyone can log in and be an editor. Eventually this will lead to much better local search results.

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