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Amazon.com Updates SDK with Web Services

Amazon.com has updated its Web services software development tool with the goal of further spreading its shopping carts as well its vendors' content around the Web.

Ten months after the Seattle-based online retailer first introduced Web services to its developer community, the company on Monday announced developers can now download a free version 3.0 of the software developer kit (SDK) from Amazon.com's Web site. The updated tool will provide all the necessary information for developers to re-create the e-commerce platform.

As a result of the Web Services SDK 3.0, third parties will be able to embed the cart into their own Web sites. "New in this version are seller APIs," said Jeff Barr, Amazon.com's Web services evangelist. "This allows developers to push their products up onto our Web site. It is all done through SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) calls."

Amazon.com has been integrated into the online shopping operations of big retailers like Target or ToysRUs for a number of years. But those integration projects were built upon proprietary technologies and required a considerable amount of man-hours to get the operations up and running. Using Web services technology, Amazon.com is now extending its platform to the masses, according to an Amazon.com spokesperson. So far, 25,000 developers have made use of previous versions of the SDK.

Amazon.com is a natural for early adoption of Web services and is able to expedite the rollout to its developer community moreso than an online auctioneer like eBay, according to Jason Bloomberg, analyst with ZapThink in Waltham, Mass. "A consumer site that is welcome to all comers is free from identity and authorization issues," said Bloomberg.

He said eBay is interested in making similar use of Web services, but the online auctioneer faces additional challenges. "eBay only wants registered users, and this is where Web services are somewhat immature, namely security, metering, and billing."

But help is on the way. "The Liberty Alliance has developed specifications, IDDF (Identity Federation Framework) to address these issues," said Bloomberg.

Even so, Amazon.com's Web services venture may not be entirely hassle free. "The potential conflict for Amazon," said Bloomberg comes from the comparison shopping sites. "Lots of people are building these, and Amazon's prices are usually not the lowest. Does Amazon want to make it easy for developer to embed their cars on these kinds of sites?" Amazon.com's Barr said this kind of thing is fine as long as developers abide by the rules. "Your link has to make it possible to perform a transaction on Amazon," said Barr. "Also we don't allow you to cache pricing and availability information on your site for more than one hour."