Why are the biggest Internet companies obsessed with controlling how we interact with their websites? Amazon claims to be the most customer centric business on Earth, and in some ways, they deliver. But when it comes to their Kindle platforms, they not only screw with their customers, they tighten the screws over time, a practice Microsoft made famous. Google plays the same games, endlessly extending the tentacles of their Borg-ian Google Plus efforts until you can barely switch off an account without submitting to a proctology examination.
In the war of the browsers, the idiots at Microsoft thought that abandoning Internet Explorer for Windows XP would be a neat way to force users to upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 (even Microsoft would rather forget about Vista). In doing so, they forced every XP die-hard to switch Google Chrome in order to access Google accounts, which slowly and steadily were upgraded to incompatibility with Internet Explorer 8. Google recently got around to preventing Analytics from displaying in IE8, don’t try to convince me that it was an engineering necessity to squeeze the entire screen into a center column without drag bars to expand it:-)
Back in Amazon world, many, if not most Kindle eBooks, have at least one embedded hyperlink to the Amazon store. The author bio might link the product page of the book with a request for reviews, the publisher may link other books in the series or by the same author, nonfiction books may link to books that are referenced in the texts.
Surfing the Amazon website on an eInk Kindle was never great fun, but it did work, and you could even use the “Manage Your Kindle” functionality, or lend a book to a friend right from your eInk browse. Add of course, you could purchase or download free books directly to your Kindle from the Amazon site, rather than trying to find them through the limited store search capability.
Amazon has steadily chipped away at the functionality of the experimental browser on eInk Kindle and PaperWhite, and crippled the Kindle app for iOS, though that may have been demanded by Apple. After the latest round of software updates from Amazon, I noticed that links to the Amazon website produce a load error on all eInk Kindle experimental browsers. You can’t load an Amazon page on any B&W Kindle devices without getting an error, and even if you are logged into Amazon, you won’t get access to a “Buy” or “Add To Wishlist” button, or be able to lend a book, or access “Manage Your Kindle.” This is a downgrade in the truest sense of the word.
Amazon store links still work on all of the Fire devices, though oddly enough, I can’t load the main page of Amazon.com on my first generation Fire anymore, despite clearing cache and history, etc (I can access interior web pages on Amazon by way of a search engine). And none of the pages on the IMDb website (owned by Amazon) will load on my first generation Fire, which has no problems with other websites. Who knows, maybe rather than altering the browsers they’re altering their websites (Amazon and IMDb) to make them incompatible with their own devices.
Amazon disabled links to their store in newly published eBooks books in the Kindle app for iPad last year, though they did this in the publication process, rather than at the app, which may have related to a changeover in Kindle format. Those links only work now if you use the iPad Safari browser to access “Manage Your Kindle” from the Amazon site and read the books in the cloud reader, which asside from the extra step, works as well as the app.
I can’t pretend to be inside the heads of the people making these decisions at the big internet companies, and I hear that FaceBook, Apple and Twitter sometimes make changes that drive their users nuts as well. I think it comes down to the fact that they own us, or at least, they like to see it that way, and they certainly own their websites and licensed software, so they can do whatever they want.
But does it really make sense prevent customers and users from interacting with the websites in a way that we find useful, or have grown accustomed to? Am I supposed to be grateful that these companies are preventing me from using their websites in ways they deem less than ideal? At least I don’t own a smartphone. It would drive me absolutely bonkers if I owned one and turned it on one day to find that Apple or Samsung had decided there’s a better process for dialing a phone number or checking a map. After all, wouldn’t such mundane tasks be richer if you got to view a relevant advertisement first?