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Amazon and Facebook: A Mediocre Marriage at Best

By Anders Bylund - Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 12:31PM

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This could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Instead, it's a missed opportunity that cuts both ways.

We're getting closer to the total social network experience every day. This week, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Facebook found themselves in a warm embrace as their services now hook into one another. The quasi-official feature announcement is short and sweet, as befits a master of short-short communications like Facebook:

Use Amazon.com? Got friends on Facebook? Put them together and see product recommendations based on your Facebook profile, what's most popular with your friends and more. Let us know what you think!

A few clicks later, you have agreed to give Amazon access to your likes and dislikes, your friend lists, your interests, and a downright disturbing amount of information about your friends. If you're at all uncomfortable with letting Amazon know your favorite books and movies, your birthday, or your current city of residence, you better make sure your privacy settings are set to "nuclear" or some such before Auntie Em or Steve from accounting make all of that readily available without you having a say-so.

Apart from the potential privacy objections, which spring up every time Facebook or Twitter do anything remotely interesting, I can see the business value of these recommendations. If you hang out with a lot of people who like a certain type of music, chances aren't bad that you'd agree. This tool drags such information out of dark crevices without going to the extreme option of talking to your friends. As it turns out, my best buddies like Johnny Cash, the Bible, and Star Wars. Fair enough.

Technically speaking, it's your Amazon account that connects to Facebook. In a perfect world, there'd be enough communication the other way around once you've completed that step to call it a two-way street. That's not how it worked out, though.

Amazon doesn't do much in return for Facebook. The e-tailing veteran promises not to post anything to your Facebook pages, contact your friends directly, or share your purchase history with Facebook in any way. On the one hand, that sounds user-friendly as those wall feeds tend to clutter up on their own. On the other, it's a missed opportunity to monetize Facebook's traffic and raise awareness of Amazon's product availability.

All told, this is a much smaller deal than you'd think when you first find out about it. Will the dynamic duo expand their friendship later on? If not, perhaps Facebook is holding the door open for eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), or Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK) to join the party with similar data hookups. That is, if those other cyberspace veterans don't hunker down to build a Facebook competitor first.

Again, this was a swing and a miss. Better luck next time, Facebook. You too, Amazon.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers choice. Amazon.com and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on eBay. The Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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Stocks Mentioned

Alphabet Inc. Stock Quote
Alphabet Inc.
GOOGL
$119.70 (2.63%) $3.07
Amazon.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Amazon.com, Inc.
AMZN
$142.69 (3.53%) $4.86
eBay Inc. Stock Quote
eBay Inc.
EBAY
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Overstock.com, Inc. Stock Quote
Overstock.com, Inc.
OSTK
$30.17 (4.68%) $1.35

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