Saturday, March 31, 2007

Amazon versus Alexaholic

An interesting story on TechDirt about how Amazon-owned Alexa took many of the good UI ideas developed by a site called Alexaholic (that was layered on top of and depended on Alexa data), then worked to shut Alexaholic down.
Amazon's Alexa unit, which tries (poorly, some might argue) to track web traffic, has been embroiled in a spat with the site Statsaholic, which until recently was called Alexaholic.

Statsaholic's strategy was to take Alexa's data and present it in a matter that's far more usable than the way Alexa presents it.

Amazon seemed to tolerate, or even encourage, Alexaholic, until it built all of Alexaholic's functionality into its own site, at which point it went on the attack. First it went after the company's domain name,, which was arguably infringing on Alexa's trademark. Then Amazon blocked off access to its graphs and data, effectively disabling the renamed Statsaholic.
See also reports on this from Dare Obasanjo and TechCrunch.

See also my Nov 2005 post, "Is Web 2.0 nothing more than mashups?", where I said:
Companies offer web services to get free ideas, exploit free R&D, and discover promising talent. That's why the APIs are crippled with restrictions like no more than N hits a day, no commercial use, and no uptime or quality guarantees.

They offer the APIs so people can build clever toys, the best of which the company will grab -- thank you very much -- and develop further on their own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to agree that basing your business model on an API with no guarantees is ill advised. However, there's another angle to this, and that is that, from an educational perspective, these things are a real boon. Call it web services in the wild and for free. Educational institutions cannot afford the infrastructure to make these kinds of things available internally.

Further, using these publicly available APIs, there's not that much danger of lock-in. You can typically use any programming language, and the APIs are typically documented by volunteers. As for the student experience, the world is increasingly moving toward software services offered over the web. This is an object lesson in the emerging trend.