Last week Amazon began offering UK developers free access to its e-commerce engine through Soap and XML-based web services, in a bid to drum up business through the Amazon site.
Ovum analyst Gary Barnett said that by providing web services, Amazon had made it easy to syndicate its services to third parties.
The technology is not limited just to online catalogue sites. The same technique could be applied to offer web payment and billing services. Within a bank, Barnett said, "You could offer a web service interface to core banking applications such as mortgages."
More companies are likely to follow Amazon's lead since web services are used to expose business processes. Gartner vice-president Peter Sondergaard said that in 2004 web services will gain momentum, providing "a fusion between business services and applications".
One recent example where web services are being deployed is Anacubis, part of data visualisation and analysis firm i2 Group, which has developed a web interface onto the popular Google search engine using Google's published web services.
i2 Group develops and sells software designed to help law enforcement agencies around the world to visualise complex relationships, such as the structure of Enron. The same visualisation technique is being used to provide Google users with a novel approach to discovering related information across the web.
Amazon web services provide XML data (schemas) containing descriptions of products, pricing, related products and on-site reviews that can be accessed by third-party developers. A software developer kit is available at www.amazon.co.uk/webservices.