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Amazon updates Web services tool

A new version of the online retailer's Web services software allows third parties to embed Amazon's shopping cart technology into their own Web sites.

A new version of's Web services tool allows third parties to embed Amazon's shopping cart technology into their own Web sites.

Other new features in the latest version of the tool, due out Monday, include a chat function and the ability to search by price range.

The tool gives developers direct access to the online retailer's product catalog, letting them create new paths to the data stored there. The service is part of the company's associates program, which lets individuals refer customers to Amazon and get a cut of the subsequent sales. Many people have used Amazon's application programming interface (API) to set up their own storefronts, filled entirely with Amazon products.

Amazon, which launched its Web services feature in July 2002, said it now has 25,000 developers in the program.

While many developers have used the API service to run their own storefronts, others have created more unusual services, such as "light" versions of the catalog that allow for faster searches.

But in the end, all the programming takes people back to Amazon's main page, where the company hopes the links will turn into sales. Amazon estimates that about 25 percent of all sales now come through third parties, although that figure includes deals Amazon has with larger merchants such as Target. Associates range from mom-and-pop businesses to enterprise customers such as

"We are confident that the rich features available in the new offering and the robust Web site for developers will allow developers to create innovative applications that leverage the platform for merchandising products," Colin Bryar, Amazon's director of Web services and associates, said in a statement.