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Another day, another killer app
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jducoeur wrote in querki_project
Just came up with the Wish List Use Case. It's one of those moments when I realize that yeah, I'm building the right platform for the times -- this should be almost stupidly easy to implement in Querki, and the business case almost writes itself.

Indeed, it's *so* obvious that I'm a little surprised nobody's done it yet, but that's why it is perfect for Querki. On its own, it has bootstrapping problems, because you have a chicken-and-egg issue of getting enough merchants interested. But as part of Querki, it's a trivial little app that is worthwhile for many users to just start by hand. And once enough users have Wishlist Spaces, *then* it becomes much more worthwhile for merchants to play along, and at that point the network effects kick into high gear...
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Amazon has what may be close to that already, though there may be some significant differences:
http://www.amazon.com/wishlist/universal/ref=gno_listpop_uwl

Interesting, and not surprising, but it looks like there is a significant difference in the business case. Amazon's version is clever, but I suspect it is designed specifically to steal business from other companies, and/or bring them under Amazon's control.

That is, if I'm reading this right, the idea is that you (the end user) install something in your browser that shows a button; when you press the button, it adds the currently-displayed thing to your *Amazon* Wish List. And I'd bet dollars to donuts that, unless the site you took it from plays nice with Amazon, Amazon will try to sell you that item from themselves instead of from the site you originally clicked it on.

It's a clever business plan, but if I was a small business owner I'd be suspicious of it: it's basically Amazon trying to manage your business, and I'd be *slightly* surprised if Amazon didn't take any cut from such transactions.

Querki, OTOH, has a totally different game -- the business plan is all about a combination of advertising and paid memberships. My motivation here isn't stealing sales, it's using merchants to drive membership. There is some risk from the advertising side, true, but there isn't any of the kind of channel conflict that going through Amazon potentially has. That seems like it should feel more beneficial to many merchants, and give them incentive to use it.

All that said, it's useful to know about the competition. I'm not surprised, and it's a good reminder that most good niches already have players in them. But I suspect that Querki has a better case to make for at least some merchants. And given how low the barrier to entry is for me, I'll likely give it a try at some point...

General agreement, but a few other notes:
* I don't *think* Amazon needs any permission from the third-party merchants to do what they are doing.
* From the PoV of the end-user, it sounds easier (and more universal) than what you suggest for a Querki version.
* I don't think Amazon wants to *immediately* "try to sell you that item from themselves". In the short term, it's a good loss leader to keep the buyer (and their gift-giving friends) thinking of Amazon as "the place to buy everything". In the long term, it lets Amazon gather data about things their customers want and which they don't -- *yet* -- offer. Simultaneously, it tells them who their existing competition is, should they choose to enter those markets.

Amazon will tell you if Amazon offers the product themselves, and offer to put that on your wishlist instead, but doesn't force you to do so.

Re: Having used it...

Okay -- makes sense. Non-trivial channel conflict, but they're at least trying not to be *overtly* evil...

I don't *think* Amazon needs any permission from the third-party merchants to do what they are doing.

Oh, I'm sure they don't. Indeed, the fact that they offer it as a browser plug-in is a pretty clear sign of that. They offer a merchant-driven version as *well*, and I suspect that there are some benefits to merchants who play ball, but the point is universality.

From the PoV of the end-user, it sounds easier (and more universal) than what you suggest for a Querki version.

Actually, I started out designing more or less exactly what they have, and it wouldn't be hard to do. But then it occurred to me that making the system merchant-friendly as well had all sorts of nice synergies.

In the long run, I'm looking at something fairly similar to Amazon's version from the end user POV, really -- details are likely to be very different, but the broad strokes will probably be similar. It's just somewhat different, and likely better, from many merchants' viewpoint...

* There's little mechanism for them to take a cut of transactions on a third party site. And while they do tell you if they offer the product, they in no way interfere with you linking to a third party site. This is especially useful for products Amazon -doesn't- carry.

* The javascript bookmarklet makes a world of difference by making the list -easy- to use. Even cutting and pasting a link into a list tool is a barrier to use.

* Their wishlist adding functions not only take the link to the item, but also load images from that page and allow you to pick an appropriate image for the item.

Hmm -- useful to know. There are probably a bunch of ideas there that I'll need to think about. (Especially the image stuff, which hadn't occurred to me, but I can see the utility of it...)

The people who drive wishlist use are two:
a. People adding stuff to the wishlist. If you don't have any of these, you don't have app use.
b. People buying stuff for those people. If you don't have any of these, your (a) users don't get anything they list, and will stop using your app.

For the (a) users, any well-designed wishlist app is about as good as any other one - create a bookmarklet which allows you to add arbitrary URLs to your wishlist with a single click, and it's nice and convenient. Distinction is likely to be done on sub-features: how easy it is to manage, whether you can specify things like priorities, etc.

For the (b) users, AFAICT, there's two things driving using Amazon wishlists:
1. They know where to find them.
2. They have an Amazon account, which means they can buy Amazon-sold stuff (which tends to comprise the majority of Amazon-hosted wishlists, in my experience) without the fuss and bother of entering all their information again.

These barriers are somewhat harder to overcome.

That being said, I ran and maintained a wishlist application for ~10 years, because when I built it there was nothing like what I wanted out there - and when I end-of-lifed the app last year, I did some quick research into alternatives that people could migrate to and it looked like Amazon was the only really good option. :P So there may be space for disruption.

The downside is that so far as I'm aware of the space, merchants aren't much involved with the wishlist process at all, so this may not be a good candidate for merchants driving Querki membership.

The downside is that so far as I'm aware of the space, merchants aren't much involved with the wishlist process at all...

To clarify on this: Merchants are very involved in wishlists run on, by, and for their site, but not so much with third-party ones.

(Of course, the (a) users don't want an app which relies on merchant cooperation in the first place, so this isn't a barrier to making a good app.)

To clarify on this: Merchants are very involved in wishlists run on, by, and for their site, but not so much with third-party ones.

Correct. But I suspect that that's partly because there are few truly *neutral* wishlist products. Like I said to Alexx, Amazon has real channel-conflict issues, which I suspect would make many merchants cautious about using them.

This, though, would be a completely ordinary Querki app, not a competitor at all: my only goal is to provide useful services to Querki members, to encourage more people to become members. So *if* it was easy enough to integrate, it seems like a reasonably straightforward sell to small merchants who don't already have their own wishlist capability.

All that said, you're correct, especially about (b2) -- Amazon's advantage is ease of use for the buyers. That's a non-trivial matter. OTOH, that makes my sales pitch to small independent merchants more compelling -- and the more merchants who pro-actively use Querki, the more powerful it becomes.

(I'm less concerned about (b1), frankly -- social network integration provides a lot of ways to crack that particular nut...)

Re: B) the fact that you can search for people's wishlists on Amazon makes a difference too. My mother will never be able to remember or keep a link that send her (Even if it is off of a simply vanity domain) but she knows how to go to Amazon and search for my name...

Also, in the context of A) I used these sorts of lists for wedding registry and baby shower lists as well. An extension of the usual gift model, but one that should not be forgotten.

I too found Amazon the only suitable option after bouncing around between options for a few years. For as simple an idea as it seems, so many places just don't do it well.

Although I've also seen people using Tumblr as a wishlist tool.

There are actually a lot of wishlist apps out there. Most of them pay for themselves by inserting referral codes into links to products on sites like Amazon. Amazon has their own universal wishlist, but again, the goal is to drive people and information into their market system so they can see what's desirable, and lead people towards buying from them. This is an extension of the 'save it later in the shopping cart as wish list' that they found a lot of people were doing.

I've used a lot of different services, and I'm currently using the Amazon wishlist. I had issues with at least one other service where they were replacing my referral codes with their own without specifying anything of the sort in their TOS. (I was explicitly giving people links with referral codes in the context of my podcast)

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