Using Amazon.com is easy. Even novice web users with a bit of time and curiosity can find exactly what they’re looking for and complete a transaction fairly effortlessly. Beneath this user-friendly exterior, though, is a powerful application that helps people discover information, voice opinions, participate in a community, and sell things.
First and foremost, Amazon.com is a web application—not to be confused with simple, flat, static pages. In reality, each “page” at Amazon is generated right when you request it, personalized for your viewing pleasure and particular interests. Amazon can track which products you’ve viewed and display a list of similar or related products. Or it can include an item from your Wish List on another item’s product detail page. When browsing the site, most of the factors that make the experience unique are hidden from view. But the nature of the Web—which for the most part consists of simple, text-based pages addressed by URL—exposes some of these factors, and allows you to play with the settings embedded in URLs and pages to exert some minor control over the application and the pages it cooks up and serves you.