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New Amazon Patents on Content Personalization 88

theodp writes "Defending its decision to concoct recommendations to steer customers to buy items at Amazon's new Apparel Store, a spokeswoman said Amazon "felt it would be evident to people that since the store was so new, we wouldn't have the transaction history to create database similarities." But in this just-published patent applicaton, Amazon earlier told the USPTO it's able to use product viewing histories to determine the similarity or relatedness between products for which little or no purchase history data exists. So which claim should you believe?"
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New Amazon Patents on Content Personalization

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  • I believe they are out to make money and will say whatever it takes to get that money. Truth is not an important factor.
  • Believe the patent application. I would have thought by now that people would realize not to trust anything anyone hears, reads, or sees in the media, especially when it's coming from a PR shill.
  • by clambert ( 519009 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @07:37AM (#4975991) Homepage
    Amazon does have the technology to recommend items without customers having bought them in the past. They use product viewing history to do this.

    In a new store such as Amazon's Apparal section, they don't have the transaction history OR the product viewing history, so they can't accurately recommend products to viewers.

    I agreee that maybe they shouldn't be recommending products at all if they have no basis for their recommendations, but their patent doesn't conflict with their policy on Amazon Apparals. Basically, their patent is to allow them to recommend products to customers who haven't BOUGHT anything, but have just browsed through the store enough.
    • Amazon does have the technology to recommend items without customers having bought them in the past. They use product viewing history to do this.

      so what happens if you block cookies and/or surf as a guest at a public terminal?
    • They can predict using other histories and a small bit of data about the new store.

      Here's how it works... they already have your book and CD data, along with everybody else's. When somebody who has bought a Britney Spears album buys Levi's Jeans, it can cross link Britney with Levi's. Anybody else who has bought Britney music in the past is now presumed to like Levi's jeans as a result, until other data comes along to contradict that.

      Yeah, the initial predictions will be wildly inaccurate, but quickly they will amass the base data with which to get some close-enough returns.

      One little piece of info Amazon had better be quickly figuring out... which users are boys and which are girls.
    • 1995... peterman catalog!
  • It may well be possible to create reccommendations for new books, if you're already selling a load of books. The idea that you can tell what kind of clothes people will like from their book buying habits without any previous purchasing information obviously not going to work.

    You're making something out of nothing. How the hell did this get to the front page?
    • Re:Don't be silly. (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The idea that you can tell what kind of clothes people will like from their book buying habits without any previous purchasing information obviously not going to work.

      All marketers believe contrary. Knowledge of your previous buying habits (regardless of where the history data comes from) gives clues as to your personality type, target demographics, and future product decisions. It could even be argued that data gathered about the reading material you've purchased is especially juicy info as it would be a more "direct line" on your personality traits and buying habits.
  • I'd go with the patent. Corporations can lie and play on words as long as they don't violate some safety law or something. Lying on a patent application will ultimately make that patent ineffective. However, this is Amazon, and they likely have 100,000 other patents to deal with, so they're probably pretty familiar with the legal vagaries.
  • alternatives... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bob@dB.org ( 89920 ) <bob@db.org> on Sunday December 29, 2002 @07:39AM (#4976004) Homepage

    for those of you who (like me) dislikes amazons use of patents, show it by buying your books elsewhere. two good examples of elsewhere are:

    from europe: www.bol.com [bol.com]

    from the us: www.barnesandnoble.com [barnesandnoble.com]

    time to put your money where your mouth is, of something to that effect...

    • Re:alternatives... (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually better try www.addall.com. Lowest prices I've ever seen :)
    • ... Barnes&Noble sued Amazon [go.com]: "The day before Amazon.com launched its Initial Public Offering on the NASDAQ exchange, Barnes and Noble filed suit to stop Amazon from billing itself as "Earth's Biggest Bookstore." Barnes and Noble, which bills itself as the "World's Biggest Bookseller Online" on its new Web site, claims in its lawsuit that Amazon.com is not a bookseller but a broker for distributors." There's a good use of the courts.

      I don't worry a whole lot about the corporations jostling for control. Amazon has in many ways been the innovator and gold standard in online commerce; most of its competitors launched as wannabes, which is great. As B&N illustrates, mindlessness is not Amazon's monopoly. It's when a company does go monopoly and anticompetitive (or is on the verge of same) that I recommend walking, as with a certain software company called -- well, if you're using IE to read this, you're not with me. :)

      All that said and done, I think it's great to hunt down smaller sellers that offer specialized selections or benefit a cause you care about, even if the price is not less. Also try to use the Amazon Associates feature to channel some $ to useful groups.
    • for those of you who (like me) dislikes amazons use of patents, show it by buying your books elsewhere. two good examples of elsewhere are

      And for those of you who, like me, love shopping at Amazon.com, but hate patents, please boycott the US Patent Office.

      I, for one, refuse to patent anything.
    • the website [powells.com] for the Powell's used/new bookstore chain based out of Portland, Oregon. The flagship store, of course, is Powell's city-block-sized "City of Books," [powells.com] which is listed in every tour guide I've seen for the northwest. They have an area in the science fiction section where tons of science fiction writers who have come through magic-markered their names on the post/wall/whatever, and they have big-name book tours all the time.

      Why you should use their website, of course, is that every book in inventory (and a few that aren't - *cough, cough*), new or used, rare, collectible, is in their online search system. If you live in the area, you can even have them collect your order at one of their stores for pickup, which, when I lived there, I often did.

      Oh, yah, if that's not enough to convince you to try them out in person or online, they apparently now have a free shipping deal, as well.

      Disclaimer: I don't work for Powell's, but I spent lots of money there, and they were(are) an important customer of my former employer. I selfishly want you to buy from them so they're still around next time I visit!
    • There's always Chapters/Indigo [indigo.ca]

      For an independent bookseller, check out McNally Robinson [mcnallyrobinson.com]

  • by acehole ( 174372 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @07:41AM (#4976006) Homepage
    'Amazon.com - we don't make a profit so we'll take yours instead' (Patent Pending)

    • ... but hey, this subject is no joke.

      See ... a man came by my house two days ago, claiming to be an authorized agent of Amazon (R) (C) (tm). He said that since I felt the need to fill my toilet with personal content, Amazon's latest patent #6506692 owned the process and that I now had a royalty to pay. He affixed a coin-slotted device to my toilet handle, and now I have to ka-klink 25 cents to deliver my personal content to the undernet.

      I'd remove the damned thing, but it uses the same monitor technology as the ones used in North Korean nuclear facilities. I don't want my house bombed as a result.
  • clothes != books (Score:2, Interesting)

    by js7a ( 579872 )
    Anyone who thinks that product recommendation algorithms that work for books are going to work as well for clothes is in for a rude awakening.
    • no doubt about that.

      Is this going to be totally stereotype driven? Will they try to sell black turtlenecks to people who scope out the works of Nietzsche, or flower aprons to Martha Stewart readers?

      Can you imagine trying to predict a certain wardrobe for THIS audience? (all of whom are likely to be buying Oreilly books)

      Sooo... The next time I go there to buy a TCP/IP networking book they'll try to sell me one of those SYN/ACK thinkgeek shirts (yes, I admit it. I think those are kind of stylin') and yet... Geeks have a dominant streak of not following typical social norms. And they are going to try to predict a wardrobe? Color me incredulous.

    • Re:clothes != books (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Anyone who thinks that product recommendation algorithms that work for books are going to work as well for clothes is in for a rude awakening.

      If you consistently buy or investigate books that place you into an established target demographic profile, it's a basic tennent of marketing that you're demographic profile will not change just because you are buying something else. The profile decribes you and your household's buying persona.

      Simplified Example:
      Buyer A consistently investigates and puchases $75 coffee table books.
      Buyer A also buys books on child-rearing and parenting.
      Buyer A also purchases books on behavioral psychology.

      That's more than enough information to build a basic profile about Buyer A's purchasing patterns that includes their household income level, education level, disposable income, median age, etc.

      Once you have a basic profile about Buyer A, you can correlate that into any market which has developed any sort of buyer demographics, and the demographic profiles compiled by the apparel industry are some of the most detailed on the planet.
      • "Tennent" [yahoo.com]is a town in New Jersey.
        A "tenant" is someone who holds land, typically a renter.
        You probably meant "tenet" [reference.com], which is
        "An opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization".
        Note that a tenet may be held by a ranter....
  • by jerryasher ( 151512 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @07:45AM (#4976017)
    Look it all depends on how complex your model is.

    Did you buy P.Diddy's CD? Maybe I'll try to sell you something from his line of clothes.

    Did you buy a book about basketball? Some red Michael Jordan Boxer shorts and some clean socks.

    Did you buy childrens books, toys or CDs? It's Ladybug bug boots for you.

    Have you bought anything about Linux? Clean underwear.

    Does it matter if they made the recommendations up or not? No. When I ask the waitress for a recommendation for the fish or the steak, I get upset when she asks me for a detailed description of my tastes.

    Amazon is a business. If it helps to tell the truth to the patent office. They will. If it helps to shade the truth. That's what the lawyers are for. Same on the PR side.

  • by shoppa ( 464619 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @07:45AM (#4976020)
    Whenever I've visited Amazon in the past month or so they've been pushing their apparel store on me, with recommendations wrapped in:
    People who wear clothes buy...
    Clearly, the've been able to assume from my past book purchases that I wear clothes! Quick, patent it!
    • I've been seeing the same thing, but I am curious about their method for determining what apparel I might want to buy.

      I get:

      "People who wear clothes also shop for:

      Clean Underwear at Amazon's Target Store
      Ladybug Rain Boots from Amazon's Nordstrom's Store
      Pet Socks from Amazon's Urban Outfitters Store
      Puppy Footed One-Pieces for Newborns at Amazon's Old Navy Store"

      While I do have an interest in clean underwear, the rest don't really seem appropriate for a mid-20's single guy who's into Science Fiction books.
    • ...when I first saw that. I thought at first it was just an unexpected combination of words until I realized it came up every time.

      It's nice to be with the "in" crowd. The post-Neaderthal crowd. In one way anyhow.

      Now which books would you buy to trigger the "People who don't wear clothes..." link? I guess Amazon wouldn't give a damn about them because they're not going to buy anything.
      • Now which books would you buy to trigger the "People who don't wear clothes..." link? I guess Amazon wouldn't give a damn about them because they're not going to buy anything.

        Hmm, maybe this one [amazon.com]? As you may expect, viewing that page doesn't bring up any apparel recommendations. :)


  • this [google.com] [google.com]. IOW you select/search for something the server says "other people who searched for $xyz also searched for ..." Amazon's doing the same thing. "Other people who bought 'HowToGetRidiculousPatents' also purchased 'Honest Business Practices by Microsoft'."
    • Man, this has just got SO out of hand... Time to line up all those marketers against the wall.

      Kill, kill. Kill, kill, kill the marketers.
      • Man, this has just got SO out of hand... Time to line up all those marketers against the wall.

        Kill, kill. Kill, kill, kill the marketers.

        In my experience, it is really sales we want to get, not marketing. Marketing tries to make us look good!

        (But sales makes the money. Sigh.)

      • Man, this has just got SO out of hand... Time to line up all those marketers against the wall.

        Kill, kill. Kill, kill, kill the marketers.

        Customers who want to kill people also bought:

        The Anarchist Cookbook [amazon.com] -- by William Powell, Peter Bergman (Introduction); Paperback Buy new: $29.96

        Explosives [amazon.com] -- by Josef Kohler, et al; Paperback Buy new: $145.00 -- Used & new from: $120.29

        M1 Carbine [survival.com.mx] IAI Standard Grade New USGI stock (upper hand guard is perforated steel, allowing better cooling). Comes with two 10 round "politically correct Democrat approved" mags, two 15 round mags, the NRA booklet on the US 30 CARBINE and a military manual, all in a foam lined hard case. $675
        IAI Carbine Upgrade Comes equipped as above, with the addition of the following: NEW (complete) USGI M2 stock, all unissued USGI parts: M2 bolt, M2 slide, M2 trigger housing, M2 sear, M2 mag catch, two "still-in-the-wrapper" USGI 15 round mags, two evil and nasty 30 round mags and the US Military Armorers Manual $775

        Customers who wear clothes also shop for:

        Clean Underwear [amazon.com] from Amazon's Target Store

        Ladybug Rain Boots [amazon.com] from Amazon's Nordstrom Store

        Pet Socks [amazon.com] from Amazon's Urban Outfitters Store


    • ...is the first book ever to be published that could fit on a single Post-It note-- with an 18-point typeface.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Neither. Like many companies, Amazon is heavy into the propaganda game. It's kind of funny. On one hand, there is a large amount of dishonesty, on the other is a need for people to trust them with their credit card numbers.

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @08:29AM (#4976106)
    salesman I can patent watching my customers browse and trying to get them to buy things based on what I observe them looking at?

    Man, am *I* going to clean up. Every salesman in the universe who's even vaguely doing their job is going to owe me a royalty.

    Hell, I might even be able to afford paying the royalty on the P&B sandwich I have for lunch now.

    • Having knowns a girl who worked at Shoppers Drugmart in product layout management... there is a lot of thought put into which products go side by side, which products appear at the front of the store, and which products are showcased.

      In absence of a product purchase, one can ONLY use viewing habbits to assist in related products. The other alternative is to manually setup related products based on some common attribute (author, series, genre).

      There is nothing innovative here, they just looked to the brick n mortar as an example. I know of several shopping carts that have been doing this for over 5 years now (since Amazon first introduced Recommended Products based on purchases).

      Stupid USPTO!
      • Well, see, the problem with tat side-by-side dealie is that certain seemingly related products really DON'T belong side-by-side. I mean, at one OfficeMax I went to, printing paper was not in the "paper supplies" aisle, but in the "computer hardware" aisle. Sometimes these things go awry.
        • It should have been in both... Since in the hardware aisle, you may have been looking for a new printer, but also might remember that your current printer is out of paper.

          With the Internet, you can put these two items beside each other, were as in the store, you would have two physical locations.

          Also, there might have been some studies done indicating that people looking for printing paper go to where the computers are, rather then where the stationary is.

  • "... So which claim should you believe?"

    Well, its been clear to me that Amazon has for some time practiced some irritating sales techniques. I mean how many times to I have to wait for some stupid Harry Potter Soshkele [geek.com] when I'm tring to buy something entirely unrelated, such as Vincent Flander's [deanpeters.com] latest tombe?

    So to hear a spokeswoman try to play semantic games (for those of you outside of D.C., I believe it's called lying) with lame comments such as - "Perhaps in light of the mini-controversy, instead of saying that customers "also bought" the recommended clothing-store items, Amazon.com now says that the other customers "also wear" the recommended items." - is no surprise.

    What I would be interested in is someone enumerating in simple bullet pionts all of Amazon's "irritating" sales gimmicks.

    Now pardon me as I change my shorts ...

    Hmm. So does Amazon.com employ legions of inspectors to check the cleanliness of its customers' underwear?

  • What I believe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <ObviousGuy@hotmail.com> on Sunday December 29, 2002 @08:38AM (#4976130) Homepage Journal
    in this just-published patent applicaton, Amazon earlier told the USPTO it's able to use product viewing histories to determine the similarity or relatedness between products for which little or no purchase history data exists.

    So which claim should you believe?

    It doesn't take a 100% sample to predict the direction a population will take.
  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @08:38AM (#4976131) Journal
    For instance, the Tattered Cover [tatteredcover.com] is a great place to buy books on the Internet.

    While Amazon does everything in their power to relieve you of choice, the Tattered Cover actually stands up for your rights [freeexpression.org].

    Make Bezo get a real job.
    • Interesting post, but a little misleading. IIRC Amazon alao faught against releasing purchasing records of their customers, and won too. Amazon has a history of refusing to bow to right wing groups which want objectionable material removed. Recently there was a little thing regarding a certain book and B&N delisted it (for other reasons so they say...) but amazon didn't.

      So provide some proof that amazon is doing "everything in their power to relieve you of choice".

      So, lets see some proof!
  • I think Amazon is going down one of those slippery slopes, directed by morons. I don't care for 'relatedness' or similar items when I shop online, and find it a bother.

    Perhaps it works on others, but in clothing, particularly, fashion is in the detail.

    Many of Amazon's recent patent applications do not appear to be efforts to lock anyone out of using them or efforts to crush smaller e-businesses, like Pan-IP does, but to ensure no-one, like Pan-IP, can come to them later and say, "Ahem, we have a patent for that, pay us $,$$$,$$$,$$$" Amazon hasn't been enforcing their patents, in case anyone has paid attention.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @08:56AM (#4976178) Homepage

    Sure, we all hate ads. But when you're actually in the market to buy stuff, wouldn't you rather have relevant ads?

    Instead of bitching about the mendacity (they're a .com!) the chilling implications for privacy (oh no, I bought Dianne Wynn Jones, J.K. Rowling'll kick my arse!) or the fucked up patent system (tell your elected representative, we already know), could we not rub our collective brain cells together and try and come up with ways to make this work for our benefit?

    For example, more optional steering. Instead of just dumb feeding of ads, why not use the interactivety for mutual benefit? What if there were a little button beside each ad, saying "Not interested" (you don't need an "interested", that's the clickthrough). That way you could at least tell them about ads that actively piss you off (X10?) so that they're not just burning bandwidth. Anyone got any other ideas?

  • Clearly, they have now learned enough of the horrors of so called, "Business Process Patents" that now they are patenting idiotic business practices which they never intend to implement as a public service so no other sleazy company can do so, thus saving us all therefrom.

    er.. ..right?
  • I've sometimes found that recommendations for new accounts seem to be based on what Amazon have most in stock or make the highest margin on. Sometimes even my own old account with a large history of computer and sci-fi related purchases gets a very odd book recommended. Usually one that is quite expensive and profitable. I can see a tenuous match because most technical books tend to be expensive but isn't this stringing out the "pattern matching" for my purchases just a little bit?
  • by TotallyAmazed ( 556084 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @09:02AM (#4976210)
    Amazon patented "How to generate buzz & free publicity on SlashDot" Forget Amazon's patents... I want to be Pattin' an Amazon!!
  • To collect data, a client program executes in conjunction with a web browser on each of multiple users' computers. Each client program identifies pages viewed by the user and transmits the sequence of identifications to a server application executing on a recommendation system.
    8. The system as in claim 1, wherein the client component is a browser plug-in.

    WTF is that all about?!

    TBH I really don't see any problem here, anyway.
    If the system gets it wrong, never mind ignore it (we all ignore banner ads don't we?). If it gets it right, woo you've seen something else you want!

    Reading the original article again, I still can't see the problem. Amazon don't have transaction history to base reccomendations on, so they'll use viewing history instead, errr and ?
    • WTF is that all about?!

      Exactly. I'm don't think of myself as particularly fick, and quite often pop to the USPTO website whenever a dubious patent generates interest, and you see language like this all the time.

      I have absolutely no idea what that means. If I were a lawyer having to defend funny patents like this i'd demand that someone explain to an expert jury exactly what it was they meant.

      And when it turns out that they can't, the judge can throw the case out of court and get on with something more important.
  • Oh come on (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CaptainSuperBoy ( 17170 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @09:28AM (#4976292) Homepage Journal
    When it recommends clothing to you it says "Customers who wear clothes also bought:". Of course the recommendations are not personalized! If you've seen them on a page, it's very obvious that they're not tailored to you. This isn't some kind of big conspiracy, and yes idiot submitter they can have it both ways. The law doesn't say, "if you have a patent you have to use it all the time."
  • well, other arguments aside, I believe Amazon's recommendations are based upon what items you bought/ looked at, and what other people who bought/ looked that stuff also looked at.

    Using this method, Amazon will never recommend a brand-new product to anybody, because no one has looked at it yet. In other words, Amazon might recommend clothes to me (w/o me ever having looked at them)based on my buying habits, once a sufficient number of people have bought items I've bought AND bought clothes.

    Right now, Amazon can't mine the database for recommendations, because there is scarcely a database to mine.
  • I look at stuff I wouldn't buy but, for the most part, it's as valid as using purchasing history. When you're browsing through items, you tend to look at items that you're at least semi-interested in until you find the one you want. It is, after all, just a recomendation. You're still free to purchase/not purchase anything you want.
  • That's a lot of patents.

    > 5. The method of claim 1, wherein degrees of relatedness are based upon scores that take into account browsing history data for a plurality of users.

    I find it funny that they can patent relevancy rankings. Hey, didn't google already do that? They DID? Oops.
  • Neither of the statements made by Amazon in the introduction of this story are mutually exclusive. This means they can exist as simultaneous truths. If the sum of individual intellect ranting about this "news" can not figure this out, my explaining it will not help you at all.

    Move Along... Next Story, please...
    Thank You!
  • This is stupid. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 5KVGhost ( 208137 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @01:15PM (#4977347)
    Wow, it must be an especially slow day for such an obvious troll to make the front page. I'll humor you: The patent describes their usual recommendations system (which works pretty well, generally.) The apparel "recommendations", like "clean underwear" were a tongue-in-cheek means of introducing a brand new store to their customers. The two concepts are not mutally exclusive.
  • I responded to this through the Amazon "contact us", the nice helpful one which says that they won't get back to you (perhaps they should patent the process of not responding to customers).

    I said something like :

    <quote>I prefer not to wear clothes, so you're clearly not using any knowledge about me to generate this. Furthermore, what would ever make you think that even someone wanting to wear clothes would favor a product like "ladybug rain boots", or "pet socks" . (Indeed, the very name "ladybug rain boots" makes me a bit queasy.)

    Furthermore, you may be aiming at the wrong audience entirely. After all, isn't one of the advertized plusses of internet shopping being able to do it in your underwear (clean or not)? </quote>

    I havent done more than verify that it exists, but amazon light [kokogiak.com] may be a good alternative.

  • Every Christmas, since Amazon was a struggling startup using "doors" as desks, I have done a lot of Christmas shopping at Amazon. They always seemed to have what I wanted at a good price, and it seemed that they always knew when to email me the FREE shipping coupon.

    However, this is the first year I did not spend my Holiday dollars at Amazon. Here are my reasons.

    * Amazon is moving towards a retail pricing model. No more good deals.
    * Consumer Electronics are cheaper at Best Buy / Comp USA sales (even with tax).
    * Amazon's customer recommended product matcher is wildly innaccurate (at least for me).

    This year I was shopping for a 4 MegaPixel Digital camera, photo printer, books, and toys. I added the items I wanted to "My Wish List" hoping it would trigger the Amazon to take action. Do you think the Amazon AI (Artificial Intelligence) was smart enought to email me a coupon, or possibly even propose a packages, e.g. (Camera, + Media + Accessories + Printer). Nope, instead Amazon gave me a "Gold Box" and filled it unrelated junk like "Steak Knives" and "Foot Massagers".

    Meanwhile, all my holiday shopping dollars went to local brick and mortar shops. I predict that Amazons holiday sales figures are going to be disappointing. I tried to email Bezos and make suggestions, but his auto responder just kept emailing back. I wonder if he reads slashdot?

    Anyway, I was just curious how many that usually shopped at Amazon went elsewhere this year and your reasons for doing do.

    If Amazon doesn't figure out a new model, all they may have in the end is patent royalty revenue. Note to the Computer Industry and Jeff Bezos, "Stop Litigating and Start Innovating"!
  • by 3ryon ( 415000 ) on Sunday December 29, 2002 @02:41PM (#4977744)
    This explains why, when I view a book like The Selfish Gene (on evolutionary biology) Amazon gives me a recommendation like this:

    People who bought The Selfish Gene also bought:
    1. Clean Underwear from Target.

    No, I am not kidding.
  • The idea of making product recommendations based on click-stream history is not a new concept. I know of several customers of my employer that have implemented, or are considering implementing it as a "fall-back" product recommendation strategy.

    The idea of click-stream based recommendations was under discussion in the collaborative filtering field at least three years ago (if not longer). I fail to see how Amazon can make this application fly past claims of prior art.
  • BOTH (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeremyhu ( 164852 )
    Amazon "felt it would be evident to people that since the store was so new, we wouldn't have the transaction history to create database similarities."

    Ok, that makes sense

    Amazon earlier told the USPTO it's able to use product viewing histories to determine the similarity or relatedness between products for which little or no purchase history data exists. So which claim should you believe?"

    Both statements can be true. Amazon.com uses VIEWING information, and since you haven't viewed any clothes, they can't give you good recomendations. But once you look at maybe 10 articles of clothing you like, it will be able to make good recomendations for other clothes. At this point, you still have no PURCHASE history.
  • I can't say about the specifics of using your viewing history to predict it, but the method they use to predict based on those--collaborative filtering--is old hat, and you can find prior art for it all over the place: for example, Alexandria Digital Litarature [alexlit.com], an e-book vendor that also sports the best reading-recommender I've ever seen. (You tell it what books you loved, liked, disliked, and hated, and it compares your list to those of a zillion other Alexlit users and predicts new titles you might enjoy.) It's not steered me wrong so far.
  • These two statements are not contradictory. Amazon may not BE doing it with current data, but that does not mean they don't have the technology to do it when the database gets larger. Not doing something and being able to do it are not mutually exclusive.
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