Amazon dualities

Amazon.com is a wondrous thing, a mix of one of the greatest, most efficient economies of scale of our time with an unbelievably chaotic, overstimulating UI that just keeps adding features on as Web technologies change, and seems to never take any away. I would gladly give up the “frequently bought together” and rarely special “special offers” boxes in exchange for truly powerful advanced searching.  (See the criminally underrecognized camelcamelcamel.com for just a taste of the possibilities here.)

And what’s with the product forums? Even the most popular products never have much forum activity going on, probably because Amazon decided to place the forums seven clicks of the scroll bar deep and barely anyone knows they exist. Aggressively promoting the discussion of products on Amazon itself seems like it would accumulate even more interested eyeballs (which usually equal money!), yet this is barely an afterthought. I suspect the root of the UI problem is that Amazon long ago came to a fork in the road and chose the same path Microsoft took and Google is taking: with lots of money and talented people, you get to develop an unbelievably successful and ubiquitous product, but at the cost of creating an entrenched product bureaucracy in which huge changes are all but impossible, forcing the company to make constant little incremental add-ons that eventually just make the user experience feel ridiculous.

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