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Amazon expands Web services efforts

The e-tailer releases two new packages designed to help people and companies feature Amazon merchandise on their own Web sites.

Online retailer Amazon.com broadened its Web services efforts on Monday by releasing additional guidelines and data designed for use by people and companies building links to its site.

The Seattle-based company released two new packages of software specifications and database statistics aimed at people and companies creating Web services ties to its e-commerce systems. The software specs allow anyone who wants to feature Amazon merchandise on their own Web sites to do so.

One package, Amazon E-Commerce Service 4.0, promises to offer application developers more detailed information on products being sold on its site. The second release, dubbed Alexa Web Information Service, tenders access to a database of Amazon's Web site usage data, compiled by statisticians at the company's Alexa Internet division.

The launch is the latest step in Amazon's emerging strategy of increasing sales by allowing developers to tap directly into its e-commerce network. The initiative has encouraged legions of people running e-commerce sites or other Web business to become partners and build links into Amazon's product databases. The company has been credited, along with search giant Google, as being one of the few companies willing to to parties interested in creating direct links into its online infrastructure. Early indicators are that the plan is working, with experts estimating that it has received approximately 10 million hits per day via Web services interfaces.

The E-Commerce Service 4.0 package is an update of Amazon's existing Web services applications tool set; it's designed to offer expanded access to information on products available for sale on the e-tailer's site, including images and customer reviews. The company also added a number of product categories previously unavailable for Web services access, including apparel, jewelry, sporting goods and beauty products.

For customer reviews, Amazon will now allow users of its Web services tools to show all the feedback for a specific product, whereas in the past it allowed for access to only three reviews per item. Amazon also says the release will give application builders greater ability to tap directly into its advanced search and shopping cart features.

With the Alexa Web Information Service, Amazon is offering access to data collected by the company's Web Crawl feature, which claims to index over 100 terabytes of data from over 4 billion Web pages. The e-tailer said it hopes developers and Web site owners can use the tool to save time and build more effective links back to its business. For instance, the system offers information pertaining to specific Web sites, such as traffic and load speed, and lists of URLs that have content matching certain keywords.