Amazon funding the 43Things Folksonomy?

One of the early folksonomy sites, 43things.com, is being funded – somewhat secretly – by Amazon.com.

Interesting news over at Salon.com. The site 43things.com, run by the Robot Co-op and one of the few sites using folksonomies (people enter things they want to do, and then tag them), is actually being funded – somewhat secretly – by Amazon.com.

This, of course, raises questions about what the 43things data store is being used for. Is it being handed off to Amazon? Is it being built until there is enough attention to advertise Amazon’s products to? (I’m assuming here that Amazon isn’t just a disinterested shareholder.) Whether or not they will, the privacy policy makes it clear that they may share user information:

We work closely with other businesses, and we may share user information with those businesses.

I don’t mean to alarm anybody, however. This is standard practice for most companies. What I’m wondering is if this changes anything, from a user’s point of view. Is it OK to hide from users the fact that an e-commerce giant has direct access to what you are doing on another site? I know that when I go to Amazon.com directly that they know a lot of information about me, but do I mind if they are collecting information from other sources and aggregating it? I’m not sure.

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about aggregating user behavior to provide cool features such as what’s popular and new, and 43things is a good example of that. What I haven’t talked about is what else that data could be used for, and now that seems to be where we’re headed.

UPDATE: The Robot Co-op folks have a blog response for those who are looking for more information about this. (they suggest that Salon distorted the story)

It is interesting to note that the ads that are on the site right now are Google ads.

My guess is that 43things will build in functionality using Amazon’s API at some point.

For my own part, when I first heard about 43things.com, I signed up for an account. However, the service didn’t seem all that useful for me, but apparently many others do find it so. Seeing how the community is building so far, including mentoring by folks who have done what others only want to do, it could get more and more interesting over time.

Published: February 9th, 2005

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