Amazon’s Web Services

A couple of articles on Amazon’s public web services: “[Amazon is] using Web services to shake up the business-to-business end of retail. Amazon makes it easy for sellers of goods ranging from books to flowers to create their own applications using its e-commerce Web site…By all accounts, Amazon’s Web services are a huge success, with more than 24,000 registered users and 10 million hits a day…Unlike a walled-off trading network, Amazon is building a system where anyone can piggyback off many of the capabilities on its Web site. Microsoft even extended its Office 2003 with an Amazon Web service that can be embedded within common documents–what Microsoft calls ‘software as a service.’ ”

Business Week: “Building on a raft of tech initiatives, from an ever-richer Web site to new search technology, [Jeff] Bezos aims to reprogram the company into something even more potent. The notion is to create a technology-driven nexus for e-commerce that’s as pervasive and powerful as Microsoft’s Windows operating software is in computing. That’s right: Bezos hopes to create a Windows for e-commerce…Using these so-called Amazon Web Services, reached via a browser, merchants who want to sell more can use its patented one-click purchasing system, for instance, or tap quickly into sales data for particular products. Even independent programmers are getting interested: In just 18 months, up to 35,000 programmers have downloaded software that enables them to pick and choose Amazon services and, much as they do with Windows, write new applications based on them.”

Tim O’Reilly provides the bigger picture:

I’ve been arguing that sites like Amazon and EBay are not just web sites, but early examples of a new paradigm that will transform the computer industry as we know it today. We start by looking at them as applications, then as platforms, and ultimately need to think about how they will be integrated into an internet-scale operating system. In this future, many of the principles of open source — particularly user customizability and distributed collaboration — will play an enormous role, even in applications that we would not normally think of as open source. But at the same time, the new paradigm challenges open source licenses that are conditioned on the act of software distribution (which is no longer necessary), and that fail to recognize that control over data may be more important than access to source code or control over software APIs.

I see the same thing happening with my fingering of web services as the first step towards a next generation “internet operating system”, and data rich “infoware” applications like Amazon and EBay being the next step beyond the shrinkwrapped software applications of the PC era.


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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.