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Amazon lets customers post photos

E-tailer introduces new community feature allowing customers to post photos along with reviews.

Amazon.com has quietly introduced a new feature on its Web store that lets customers post photos alongside product reviews--its latest effort to build a sense of community among customers.

The e-tailer introduced the feature, called Customer Images, last month for certain product categories including electronics, apparel, sporting goods and musical instruments. It added kitchen items, tools and hardware on Tuesday. The feature is in beta, meaning the company is still testing and tuning it.

"This feature allows customers to really showcase how they are using the product," Amazon spokesman Craig Berman said. "It's a great addition to our customer experience."

The idea is to let customers highlight specific attributes of a product, such as size, and show the product in action, he said.

Amazon's move underscores an online trend--the blurring of e-commerce and personal media such as Web logs and social networking sites like Friendster. This trend was highlighted recently by a panel of e-commerce executives who predicted that online retail sites will incorporate more Friendster-like features, such as personal profiles, and that some bloggers will endorse more favorite books, music, movies and products with links to where to buy them online.

Amazon trusts that its customers won't post any offensive or copyrighted images. The Seattle company doesn't screen photos or captions before they're posted to the site, but it asks that customers do not post profane or obscene images or intellectual property they don't own. Customers can report images that violate the guidelines, and Amazon may remove them, Berman said.

"Behave as if you were a guest at a friend's dinner party: please treat the Amazon community with respect," the company's online guidelines say.

The photos appear in product image galleries as well as in customers' image galleries in their About You page. Amazon may bring the photo feature to more product categories such as home and garden, Berman said.

To post a photo on Amazon, customers must have an Amazon account and use the site's Real Name feature, something the company introduced over the summer to do away with anonymous reviews of books and other products. The Real Name must match the cardholder name on the credit card used for the Amazon account.