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Worse (marco.org)
674 points by shawndumas on March 15, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 280 comments

As an aside: for me, Amazon Instant Video is _much_ better than Netflix Streaming. I pay for both (Amazon unintentionally, because I bought Prime for the shipping), watch both on a PS3, and spend 2x the amount of time in Amazon as I do in Netflix.

Apart from the free catalogs, which are comparable between the two services, Amazon also has an enormous paid streaming catalog. Like most nerds, the value of an hour of my time is such that even thinking about the price of paid streaming content is a waste of time, so Amazon's paid streaming catalog is a great win for me; 9 times out of 10, whatever I want to watch, I can get through Amazon.

Amazon also does a better job of maintaining my library of past purchases and my wishlist than either of Netflix or iTunes.

I didn't buy Prime to get the videos, but the videos aren't s small feature. Amazon executes streaming content as well as anyone else, and if you haven't checked them out (because you use Netflix, for instance) you should.

Also: I don't think streaming media is at all out of place in Amazon's core offering. They started with books. Then digital media, just like Borders did. Then "everything else", which is what people seem to think of Amazon as now --- the Walmart of the Web. But: then Kindle (consolidating their reach into content), then streaming media, then publishing.

It doesn't seem at all weird to me that the Internet's largest retailer of paid content would have a streaming media service; online content delivery would otherwise obsolete one of their original offerings.

> Amazon Instant Video is _much_ better than Netflix Streaming.

Libraries are constantly in flux but here's a comparison of imdb top 250 tv shows across services:


Methodology, etc.:


Spoilers: Netflix dominates Amazon by a wide margin. I'd love to see the same data for movies if anyone has it.

A few years ago I consciously decided that Amazon and Netflix never have new or semi-new content. I've been much happier since. If I care about getting the most popular shows, recent movies, etc and go looking on either I would be (still) constantly disappointed. However now that I assume the content isn't there I discover other things I've never heard of like The Duchess of Duke street, a wonderful period BBC serial from the 70's that I enjoyed almost as much as Downton Abbey.

This is all to say that it is extremely difficult to compare libraries and in my case Amazon has introduced me to more new and interesting TV than Netflix and Netflix has the edge when it comes to movies.

I do this as well. With Netflix I have just accepted that I will be months — or years — behind everyone else in TV watching. And I don't care because there is always something decent to watch.

I feel like I'm actually happier with this arrangement than many friends who either have cable or grab torrents of stuff as soon as it comes out. "Don't you wish you were getting to watch $show for the first time like I am?"

If you combine the Paid/Prime columns, Amazon crushes Netflix. It isn't even a contest.

I concede your point, though: Prime alone vs. Netflix, Netflix wins. It may be that I don't notice this because of the shows I watch.

I'm surprised to hear this too, in the last year or so we've found much more to watch on Prime than on Netflix. Admittedly a lot of that is kid's shows...

Here's the comparison for movies, using the IMDB top 250 and a couple of other lists to try to get a more comprehensive picture. It's from nine months ago, so things may have changed a little since then.


Awesome Link - the major Summary is for all shows:


  Netflix: 559 Seasons
  Hulu Plus: 213 Season
  Amazon Prime: 252 Seasons
Purchase by season:

  Amazon: 1052
  iTunes: 1039
  Google: 663
When I "cut the cable" back in 1999, I switched over to watching TV via DVD, then, around 2005 or so, switched to iTunes. It was a pleasant surprise a few years later when they made all the back catalog that I had purchased available downloadable again. Ironically, though, almost all the TV shows I had purchased on DVD, and many of the ones on iTunes, are all available for free streaming on Amazon - So I don't even touch those binders of DVDs, or bother re-downloading via iTunes - I usually just stream the old stuff via Amazon.

I share your love for Amazon Instant. One of my biggest "time vs money" aha moments was when I realized I was spending 15-20min trying to find working streaming links to watch a 22min piece of content (not to mention plugging in my laptop over HDMI, making sure it was charged/plugged in).

Spending a couple bucks a week on Amazon Instant for the season passes to shows I watch has more than paid for itself in terms of time. Additionally, I can download them for offline viewing on my Kindle Fire - instead of dicking around with ripping dvds or finding some software to convert from one video format to another.

"even thinking about the price of paid streaming content is a waste of time"

that sounds so arrogant and self important. You just wasted time writing a long meaningless comment on hn and that's somehow worth your time.

But what if it's true? tptacek can be irascible at times, true, but for folks who can bill a lot by the hour or are in similar management positions, simplicity is more important than saving a few pennies or dimes. Put another way: even if I felt it was ethically OK to pirate videos, an hour of my time is worth much more now than it was when I was a relatively impoverished student. So I wouldn't.

BTW, I suspect that HN is recreation for many of us, and not work.

I'm having a hard time imagining any software developer being in a position where streaming content charges dominated even their entertainment budget, let alone their whole budget. I think whoever-that-guy-upthread is thought I was somehow bragging about my income, but that's not what I'm suggesting at all.

Your phrasing struck me as well, though not as arrogant exactly. (By the way, I'm in no way calling you out specifically on this by what I'm about to say.)

I understand full well what people mean conversationally when they say that their time is worth $x/hr, but it's worth unpacking the notion: what has worth is the value you create* by the work you perform during that time. If you spend an hour watching a movie, you are (presumably) not performing that work, and not creating that value.

To go from "I get paid $x/hr when I'm working" to "My time (even when I'm not working) is worth $x/hr" is to reason that because you sometimes create a lot of value with the time you spend working an hour of your life is more valuable than an hour of someone else's. From there it's a short semantic step to "this is beneath me because I make a lot of money."

In your particular case, I presume the spirit of your remark was more along the lines of "I make enough money that it's no hardship to spend what is for me a little bit of money to stream a movie, and if you work in tech you probably do too."

That that's the case is because you've (presumptively) earned a lot of money, but not because your leisure time is inherently more valuable than, say, someone who earns minimum wage, or someone who performs uncompensated domestic work.

*This of course leaves aside the valid critiques of markets-in-practice as measures of value.

Not to mention the brainpower. Most devs spend enough cycles during the day, and frequently on very tedious details. Who wants to spend more cycles thinking about a few bucks when all they want to do is unwind and watch a flick or two?

I think he just said HN is a waste of time. :-O

The weird caveat here is that you cannot use Amazon Instant Video on any Google-related devices. So you can stream prime on your iOS device or Kindle, but if you have an Android or Chromecast you're out of luck.

You can't use Netflix on any GNU/Linux systems.

You can't use Netflix natively on Linux, but the pipelight[1] project runs the Silverlight plugin through Wine and allows Firefox users on Linux to use Netflix in a native-feeling way. My mother, father, and siblings use Linux almost exclusively and I have installed Silverlight through the pipelight project on their computers. They have no idea that Netflix isn't running natively and no idea that Netflix doesn't support Linux because pipelight integrates it so seamlessly.

1: http://fds-team.de/cms/pipelight-installation.html

Does Pipelight require a functioning TPM to function? I'm a little confused about the mechanisms involved. Netflix's stated desire for strong DRM seems at odds with allowing solutions like Pipelight to function (since it allows their DRM to operate in an 'untrusted' environment. )

I'm of course less than excited about this in general since it makes me feel like Netflix can trust my computer better than I can, and I'd like to be able to say that no one can trust my computer more than me.

Netflix streams to plenty of machines without a "TPM". Like Macs.

Netflix can already play on a non HDCP monitor so if someone wants to rip streams via hardware they already can, AND nearly everything you would watch on netflix has already been ripped or gasp is available at the library <-- worst offender, burn them.

This is specifically for their older Silverlight DRM, not the newer HTML5 + DRM spec plan. When they move to the latter, then we who run linux have some major issues coming...

Related question: can you use this for Prime video? I've never been able to get it to work, so I have a user agent switcher just so I can do Netflix and Prime w/ the same browser.

>Amazon Instant Video is _much_ better than Netflix Streaming

>I didn't buy Prime to get the videos, but the videos aren't s small feature

>I don't think streaming media is at all out of place in Amazon's core offering.

When you put these statements together, it illustrates the problem: bundling. Worse, involuntary bundling.

You take a service that people love, which is more oriented around physical goods, then you smash in a service that many of those people may not want, but you charge everyone for the whole ball of wax anyway.

It may not be so out of place for Amazon to offer streaming media, but there is nothing particularly synergistic about discount shipping and streaming media. Loving one does not mean you'll care for the other (or wouldn't at least want the option to choose another service).

If they wanted to offer a discount for their streaming service to Prime members or optional upgrade, that's one thing. But, forcing it on existing members, then eventually raising prices is not very customer-friendly. In fact, it's somewhat hostile.

And, that's another key part of this: Amazon has long been known as very customer-focused. Of course, Prime itself at one time felt customer-centric. But, moves like this feel very much like Amazon is becoming more Amazon-centric.

I suppose we shouldn't be too surprised. They've been laying the foundation for some time at the expense of their bottom line. Perhaps this is just the beginning of the end of that phase.

Does anyone know why I can't use Amazon Video on my apple tv? Don't tell me I can use airplay, either. I don't like watching stuttering garbage that sounds like crap. Why isn't there a native app yet?!

It sounds like maybe you're describing AirPlay mirroring instead of passing the video stream straight to the Apple TV via AirPlay from an iPad or iPhone. Mirroring has to re-encode the on-screen video on the fly, so I've seen the stuttering you mean when mirroring, but I've never experienced that using the built-in video player method to send a video straight to the Apple TV from within the Amazon instant video app, or the Netflix app for that matter.

Or why can I not use Amazon Video on any Android device other than their off-brand Kindle tablets? I'm already a paying customer, but they won't let me use their service.

Or on Chromecast. I know - competitive blah blah blah - but it sucks as for us as customers. Amazon has no problem selling Chromecasts themselves, but they won't add support for them in their own apps?

You can stream an Amazon video tab on Chromecast if you disable Silverlight and choose to use the Flash player.

Concur. I would use it but it's not watchable on any useful device.

Yup. I've gone to rent a movie twice in the past few weeks. Instinctively I checked Amazon first, but ended up getting it from Google Play since they actually support my devices.

No idea, but I wish they'd work something out. Amazon video is now the most glaring omission on Apple TV IMO.

In a similar vein I wish Spotify had way more of a presence on set-top boxes in general. It's on Roku but nothing else, and it makes no sense to me. I'm intentionally not counting clients built into receivers or smart TVs, since those UIs are almost always awful to the point where I'd rather AirPlay the audio from a computer than run the built-in app on a TV or receiver. I could understand it not being on Apple TV, but I'd think that at a bare minimum, there would be a Spotify app for all the major game consoles.

Spotify, Amazon, and Netflix are all on the tivo now.


But the netflix app on TiVo is utter garbage. Slow, featureless, garbage. There's not even a back button for crying out loud! Want to change episodes once you're already watching something? Have fun waiting 5 minutes to exit and re-launch the app.

I just cut my TiVo. Unusable slow junk for $200 + $15 / month.

To get back to the Netflix menu- just press up. No need to relaunch, just to RTFM... :-)

It is much better on the Premiere and Roamio than on the Series 3 and earlier...

...I guess I'll never get the chance to try as I cancelled my TiVo subscription. Why in the world wouldn't the back button take you... back? Up? WTF?

Anyway, that was just one annoyance out of many. TiVo is garbage, slightly better smelling garbage than the cable providers give you, but still garbage, and at a higher price. No thanks; my HTPC is outperforming any DVR I have ever had.

Because Amazon and Apple compete even more directly than Netflix and Apple do. If there was an Amazon app in Apple TV, nobody would buy iTMS content. (iTMS content is of higher technical quality, but less discoverable).

I don't think this is really the case. First, I don't think Apple regards iTunes as anything else but means to sell more Apple devices. They make some money on it but it's still negligible compared to hardware profits. Second, there are other content providers (e.g. Netflix) already present on the Apple TV. Third, Amazon clearly has no problem with conducting business with their direct competitors; it's well known that Netflix is one of the most important customers of AWS, often beta testing new services before they become publicly available. Neither does Apple, the default search engine on all Apple devices is still Google.

Which makes them both worse!

Than Netflix? No, it doesn't. Netflix doesn't offer a paid catalog at all, which sucks. If Netflix did do that, they might have trouble with both Amazon and Apple.

That's not what I meant, I meant that the two companies fighting a war using incompatibility makes both of their services / platforms worse (than they could be).

Competing interests. But if you have a non-shitty router AirPlay works fine and the quality is as good as it would be otherwise streaming from Amazon.

I have a decent netgear 5g router that lets me get the full 50/12 out to the internet. You'd think that would be enough for airplay, but I've never - NEVER had a good experience. (and the appletv is hardwired to a gigabit switch.)

Sounds like you have a LAN problem. AC66U, iPhone/iPad/MBP, ATV 3, gigabit LAN, and a 12/1 connection and I stream like a stream (Internet, AirPlay, whatever).

You know, you're right. I updated the amazon app on my iphone and was able to airplay in decent quality.

The complaint I have is that I'm a secondary member on the prime account. (wife is #1 in many ways... prime account is one of them.) I don't get the option to play any of the 'prime' stuff being a secondary member.

The latest-and-greatest Time Capsule at 3 meters away is a shitty router?

I find to get AirPlay working reliably, you really need to have one of the devices wired.

3m? You might try a bit more distance. The free space path loss at 1m is only 41dB. If your signal leaves the device at only 10dBm, it arrives at the other device at -31dBm, (let's say antenna gain and loss in the coax cancel), which exceeds IEEE 802.11 maximums.

I have a lowly N66U and use the 5GHZ network on it. I have no issues at all. I even stream 1080P full-quality BR rips via Plex via AirPlay.

Maybe you are using a congested channel on 2.5ghz?

Also worth mentioning like everyone else, make sure you aren't mirroring, but only sending the stream to the ATV.

Are you talking about Airplay Mirroring then, from your Mac? Or Airplay from iOS, as the former definitely has the problems you're talking about, but the latter is smooth as silk for me :/

> Does anyone know why I can't use a direct competitor to the Apple iStore on my apple tv?

I think if you read your question this way and look at how Apple historically has done business, you will find your answer without the need for further examination.

> Like most nerds, the value of an hour of my time is such that even thinking about the price of paid streaming content is a waste of time...

Why, is your time so worthless that you can freely spend it watching an hour of streaming content?


Interesting and certainly applicable. I'd guess you're in a similar environment (I mentally place you and marco in the US?).

Here? What a load of horseshit. Netflix doesn't exist, isn't relevant. Amazon's forced 'offer' (Disclaimer: Cancelled Prime some days ago) is utterly useless. I have not a single device that I could use to access the content (unless .. you want me to use a computer/laptop) and the content is heavily biased towards braindead localized offerings: Most stuff is dubbed here.

So yes, I totally believe that some people might like that service: I'd say that it's faults are too big to make sense for the broader public (lack of devices, lack of interesting content). They _could_ blow me away. Offering access to OV titles/series, providing means to access the media without buying Apple devices or some random 'supported platforms' - like they did for mp3.

Amazon doesn't seem to care though and therefor that particular service sucks balls in my world. Consider this a counter-argument (and I didn't expect to agree with Marco tbh..).

For me, Amazon has a truly piss-poor UI... They don't allow video on non-kindle Android devices, and it's really painful in general.. They don't, or at least last I tried, didn't bundle their TV series together, you have to muddle through looking for season 1, then again for season 2.

I honestly don't use either much... I pay for both, as well as cable, but I honestly find it easier to download/watch what I want than to deal with any of them. I keep saying, I'd pay $100/month for an online service that lets be watch what shows I want, when I want without commercials. Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc just don't cut it for me. And the new DVR system from my cable co is the worst of all.

I agree the paid catalog is nice and am generally happy buying content from Amazon over other choices.

Ignoring selection, Amazon does a _much_ worse job at actually streaming content then Netflix. I subscribe to both (for now, I likely will not renew Prime) and sometimes switch between them in the same evening. Without exception, Amazon will show more compression artifacts, be slower to start, and generally lower quality then Netflix. Add to that the fact that Netflix has apps for almost everything and they are generally well maintained and attractive, whereas Amazon barely supports the Roku with a clunky interface, forget about from IOS or Chromecast.

You don't have to pay the monthly subscription to use Amazon Video's pay-per-view catalog (which seems to be what you're boasting about). Moreover, pay-per-view is a commodity. I have Android and Chromecast, so I buy from Google Play, but when I had an iPod, I'd buy from iTunes.

Device integration is the killer feature in pay-per-view streaming. The catalogs are all interchangeable. I don't know of any device (aside from maybe a Kindle) where buying from Amazon will yield a better experience than buying from {Google,Apple}.

I'm interested to know why are you a subscriber of Netflix if you think Amazon has similar streaming catalog? Do you think what Netflix has extra is worth paying $10/mo for?

I use an Apple TV. I'm a Netflix subscriber and use iTunes like you use Amazon (for the paid streaming catalog). I think Marco is in the same situation - and why I would rather pay less for Amazon Prime than to have video included.

1. I subscribed to Netflix when I noticed it on the PS3 menu; I noticed it before Amazon.

2. Netflix works on my Apple TV as well as the PS3.

3. Both Netflix and Amazon have a small amount of content that the other doesn't.

I'm not at a point in my life where optimizing the amount of money I pay for content seems like a good use of my time. If I had to choose one or the other, I'd choose Amazon.

> Amazon executes streaming content as well as anyone else

Here on Windows 8, their Silverlight player doesn't even start properly - it plays the first second or so, freezes, then jumps back to the first second again, repeatedly. The only workaround I've found is manually seeking to the first minute of the video.

And of course I have no alternative player. With Netflix I get a choice of (working) Silverlight and Metro, and most importantly it also works on all five of my Android devices. Amazon demonstrably do not execute it half as well from my perspective.

For content discovery, I use Fanhatten to find the best service to watch a specific title.

That's rare, I'm more often content with Netflix's catalog.

Amazon streaming doesn't send HD content to my Mac Mini connected to my TV. Standard Def is a joke, and there's no way I want to use my BD player's interface to find movies.

Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix streaming are basically about available TV shows, which is sad. There are movies, especially lots of B movies, which I do watch now and then. I'll keep the Amazon account around because we use enough shipping, Netflix is becoming less useful over time.

> As an aside: for me, Amazon Instant Video is _much_ better than Netflix Streaming.

And, at least the last time I used it, it works on Linux. Netflix doesn't, so I don't stream Netflix.

What's with this stupid title where you have to read the thing to have any clue what it is about?

Imagine if the front page were full with these kind of titles. We might as well change the titles to random numbers.

The last post by this guy that I remember, and the second to last one to do well on the frontpage (perhaps explaining the current behavior), was titled "Off". Can you get any more vague?

In that post all he said about anything being off was "The presenting executives seemed a bit off, too."

My prediction is that before long he'll have a post at the top of Hacker News titled "And" where he ends it with "And that's what I think."

Why does it matter? He's writing this stuff for his blog, not for Hacker News. Anyone who reads his blog is going to read this article no matter what it's titled. The only problem here is Hacker News's insistence on using the original title even when it does provide enough context.

I would vote for letting users of HN put a custom title, so they can spin off an axis of study.

You can put a custom title, it's just that HN's all-knowing, anonymous moderators will almost invariably revert it to match whatever's on the page.

I'm OK with moderator's reverting it, as long as that is communicated through the UX that it was reverted and the original title is still accessible.

You sometimes have to edit the title just to make it fit in 80 characters.

When I submit, I sometimes use the subtitle instead of the main title, or submit something like (in this case): "Worse: Business models and lock-in among Internet giants" which won't get reverted until it's already on the front page with a reasonable number of votes.

They did that on the "I'm not famous but dying of cancer at 35" post.

Congratulations, his new post is titled And: http://www.marco.org/2014/03/16/and

I like the guy and his essays, but the titles appear to be a pseudointellectual attempt to be profound.

UPDATE: Then again, judging from the comments here, maybe he was guessing (correctly) the point that nobody was going to address.

According to my HN commenter bingo card, what this top-level thread needs next is either complaining about TFA's background colour, or a heated debate about the actual definition of ad-hominem.

>> "What's with this stupid title where you have to read the thing to have any clue what it is about?"

I think you've answered your own question. A lot of people will think it's a stupid title but be curious enough to click through.

Or perhaps he chose a title appropriate for traditional blog/RSS reader format where readers are presented with the first paragraphs of the article, and the title is little more than decoration.

The article author can hardly be blamed for the HN policy of using article titles even when they aren't descriptive.

I clicked through because at the time (will change depending on when someone reads my comment) it had 104 points, 55 comments and was the top link.

But I guess more importantly (and this is a lesson) the title was ambiguous enough to not let me know that I wouldn't be interested in it.

So for example if it said "Ruby" I would have been less likely to click because that's not of any interest to me.

So my curiosity was piqued by the title. That and definitely the karma made me take a look. And the fact that I couldn't rule out interest.

This also ties into the concept of "don't oversell".

One of the things I learned as a kid was to stop selling once you have made a sale. Because if you said more after making the sale (and in some cases before) you could lose the sale.

Salesman: "and the warranty on the refrigerator is fairly price as well" Buyer: "oh wait I need a warranty hadn't thought of that, cancel the order then".

>My prediction is that before long he'll have a post at the top of Hacker News titled "And" where he ends it with "And that's what I think."

I would laugh so hard at that.

Perhaps it's a good thing that you have to read his whole piece to know what he's saying.

No it's not. I regret wasting my time reading this article. If it had a better title, I wouldn't have bothered.

Who cares? I doubt he worries what HN commenters will think of his titles when he chooses them. It's a non-issue.

This is the key to the entire article:

"There’s nowhere to go. Amazon has either destroyed or bought every competitor that has ever come close to its retail business."

Without this, nothing else matters. If there are alternatives, then you keep using Amazon and Prime only if they're worth it. If Amazon ruins them, go somewhere else.

Personally, I think it's completely wrong. I buy on Amazon because it's extremely convenient and because I can be pretty sure that they're going to offer a good price, likely the cheapest price available.

However, any time I make a purchase that's more than $30 or so, I shop around. There is no shortage of other places to buy anything I've looked for. They usually have higher prices or worse service than Amazon and so I skip them. Occasionally they're better, and then I buy from them.

There's no lock-in, there's no monopoly, there's nothing that makes people stick with Amazon besides better prices, better service, and inertia.

If you don't like it, go somewhere else. It pains me to say this because that phrase is so overused, but it applies to Amazon well.

Amazon bought all the competing sites I used to use:

Zappos has fantastic customer service, great selection of shoes, and good prices. They've been owned by Amazon since 2009.

AbeBooks is a fantastic used (or new) book marketplace. Amazon bought them in 2008.

Audible is the largest retailer of audiobooks. Amazon bought them in 2008. Try buying an audiobook anywhere else.

Amie Street provided independent music downloads will a revolutionary demand-based pricing system. Amazon bought them in 2010 to shut them down.

Woot was a pretty nifty daily deal site. They were bought by Amazon in 2010, and have really lost their original focus since.

If I want to buy just about anything online, I'm stuck buying it from Amazon. If it happens to be something that Walmart or Target stocks, I could order it from them instead. They charge $5+ for shipping even the smallest items though.

Unless Amie Street has a patent on demand-based pricing (which would now be in Amazon's hands), shutting down just means the market is open to a fresh, nimble competitor.

Now, said competitor may just end up being bought by Amazon again, true. But until then, they will be a viable "other" choice.

The same goes for every other service bought and modified by Amazon. You're complaining about them, so there's at least a demand of 1 for a replacement service :)

Wouldn't that be the point of amazon buying competitor to deter future competitors by acquiring patents and then suing anyone to shut them down, with legal justifications for doing so? (owning a patent for example)...

Shopping around, or going somewhere else is possible, but not that simple. Amazon created a pretty well-oiled system that makes competitor's lives very difficult. They usually offer the best price, a trustworthy service, they already store all your details, addresses, payment details etc. You know that if there's a problem, they'll sort it out.

To shop around means:

* figuring out if the site is trustworthy * trying to work out how much delivery would cost * registering for a new account * adding payment info * worrying about returns policy, lost deliveries and so on

That's a pretty big hurdle in most cases, if you end up saving only a couple of bucks. better prices, better service and inertia are pretty huge.

It feels a little like saying "there's nothing that makes people stick to Apple besides better UI, better software and the fact that all your digital media is already there" (ok, maybe it's not the perfect example, but pretty close).

I agree with your characterization. That's my point, really. Amazon is preferable because it's better. It's not that there are no alternatives, it's that Amazon is the best one.

That's a radically different situation, though. If Amazon makes their experience vastly worse, then everybody will leave. If there were no alternatives, then we'd be stuck. But we're not stuck, we're just using them because they're the best.

I feel like I must be the odd one here. My wife and I watch free Amazon Prime videos (i.e. bundled with the Prime service, I know nothing is actually free!) all the time. The selection is decent enough for us and they have lots of free television series that keep us busy. Between that and shipping that usually gets things here the next day, Amazon Prime is worth every penny to us.

Prime is better than ever for me too. I almost always get things the next day nowdays, even frequently for weekend orders (Saturday orders arriving Monday).

The one hiccup was that the first thing they tried to send me on a Sunday got lost, but they handled it with great customer service and next-day shipped me a replacement during the week. And since then the few things I've had scheduled for Sunday have been fine, too.

I'm in a big city, though. Maybe it's gotten worse for people in less densely populated areas that aren't so near their warehouses?


The videos service is a mess UI-wise compared to its competitors, but considering how much free shipping I take advantage of I can't complain. But Marco certainly a point that the bundling (and branding, and messaging, and discoverability) is pretty bad. It works serviceably on my Kindle Fire and Samsung TV, but is a clear step down from the competitors in terms of interface, app availability, polish, etc.

You're missing the point of the post: those videos are not free, and for the many people who don't want them they're the reason Prime shipping is more expensive than it needs to be.

> free Amazon Prime videos

I know that's how Amazon phrases it but this is the fallacy the OP is arguing against.

Bad wording, I was differentiating between the Amazon videos that are bundled with Prime vs the videos that you still have to pay for even with Prime. We very rarely pay an additional amount to watch a video on Amazon.

Yea, I love Prime videos. The author here is extrapolating about the entire Prime subscribership based on his personal experiences. That's a terrible way to write an article.

I know, right. He should keep that kind of stuff on his personal blog.

I'd love to try it out, but unfortunately they don't support a lot of devices (eg: android, chromecast, or linux). Out of all of my devices, I can watch Netflix on 6, and Amazon Video on 1 (my bluray player that I very rarely use). If they truly want Amazon Video to be a compelling alternative to Netflix, they need to start supporting more devices, and stop the embargo against android devices that's a poor attempt to prop up Kindle sales.

I absolutely love the prime service, and it has not become worse for me here in California. They had to start charging us tax but all it really meant was that we had closer and closer distribution centers. My overall service, in that regard, has only become better in the last few years. I use AP at least once a week between work and home purchases... can't say I have ever used the video stuff, though.

They're not free.

Of course not. You have to pay $99 to get them.

So why do people go along with Amazon's claim they are free?

Because they are using the word "free" in a different (but obvious) way than you are: their meaning is "no extra cost, once you've paid the yearly fee". That's reasonable.

Surely that applies to everything about prime - shipping is 'free' after you've paid the fee.

So that means it's all 'free' despite costing $100 just as a Tesla Model S is free after you've paid the $70,000 fee, and a Mac Pro is also free after you've paid the $2,999.

Perfectly reasonable.

Those are inapt comparisons. How about this: I go to Costco and see a 24-pack of toilet paper. The price displayed is $7.99. I go to the checkout and pay $7.99 and take the toilet paper home.

I wouldn't have been able to make the purchase without having previously paid for a Costco membership, so the "true" cost of the toilet paper is more than $7.99. That said, would anyone reasonably contend with the statement "I got this toilet paper for $7.99"?

Similarly, those videos are free _for members_, in the sense that they can be used at no further cost.

Sure - but you haven't addressed the point that everything about amazon prime works this way but calling all the benefits 'free' is surely misleading.

Equally if I set up a Mac Pro club where I charge $3500 annual membership, and you get a free Mac Pro, nobody would be fooled into calling that Mac Pro 'free'.

That's precisely the point I addressed. The "Mac Pro club" example isn't relevant here because it's a membership that results in the delivery of a single product at a single time. There's a reason nobody structures membership deals like that.

Amazon Prime is a flat membership fee, after which you receive a number of unmetered benefits. Some of those benefits include products that would normally cost money being available for no additional cost. The use of the word "free" to describe offers like that is unremarkable.

It may be unremarkable, but that doesn't make it honest.

Nothing you get from prime is actually 'free'. Unmetered is honest, 'included' would be honest. 'Free' is not.

Another example would be broadband with no cap. We call that 'unmetered' not 'free', for a reason.

Yeah he did address the point. The Costco example is apt.

Are people not understanding the concept of membership? There are _countless_ examples of membership, both online and off, in which perks of said membership are touted as "free".

Golf clubs offer free food/drinks/carts. Costco as mentioned offers free unlimited-discounts/samples/eye-testing. etc...

"Free" has at this point become an idiomatic expression, which, when used in the context of a membership perk, effectively means

"You've paid for unlimited use of this perk and it's no additional charge over the cost of your membership"

In all of my time using Amazon I've never felt the intention to mislead me into thinking I would have these videos free if I hadn't paid for Prime... In all of their advertisements/video-descriptions it is explicitly mentioned somewhere on the page that this video is "prime"... The 'free video' section is even labelled "Prime Instant Video".

Whether you're getting free drinks at the Golf Club or watching free videos in Amazon Prime, it would take a mental invalid to not realize the inherent cost of that 'free' item, and the fact that you already paid for access to it.

> Whether you're getting free drinks at the Golf Club or watching free videos in Amazon Prime, it would take a mental invalid to not realize the inherent cost of that 'free' item, and the fact that you already paid for access to it.

I suggest you do some actual research into behavioral economics.

There are other streaming videos on amazon that you still need to pay for, even if you aren't a Prime member. The "free" amazon prime videos are the ones that are $0 extra if you are Prime, instead of $1.99 or whatever.

Perhaps the statement was intended this way:

"Shipping is 'free' [for Amazon Prime members]."

That is a factual statement, even under a very strict definition of the word "free". And I think it corresponds to the original poster's intent. Obviously, it costs money to become an Amazon Prime member, but for such members the shipping is, indeed, free.

No, the Tesla only gets you one thing, one time: a car.

For those of us (I'm guessing the majority) who already buy Amazon Prime simply for the benefit of unlimited 2-day shipping, any additional features come at no cost.

I agree it's not the same as a pure definition of 'free', but for many of us it's effectively the same.

What about the people who buy it for the streaming video? Does that make shipping 'free'?

Perhaps a better word here is 'bonus'

I don't use Prime video, but I'll support people who are happy to use it.

> They want to lock everyone into everything. Just like everyone else. And we’re all worse off for it.

I really like Schneier's commentary on how large companies are migrating toward a feudal system[1]. His perspective is from security, but the central point is universal.

[1]: http://www.wired.com/opinion/2012/11/feudal-security/

I think Amazon needs to get into the delivery business soon.

Planet Money (an NPR show) created a t-shirt for fans and broke down the cost of each shirt. The biggest line item was shipping the finished shirts to customers.


Out of the total cost of $12.42, it cost $2.26 to ship. It cost $1.04 to accept payments. Compare these costs with the actual cost of the product: $0.60 for the cotton, $0.40 to spin the cotton into yarn, $1.00 for sewing.

It seems unlikely that Amazon as it exists today will ever rival Walmart in volume and price since they avoid these last-mile delivery costs.

Amazon should take on FedEx and UPS and try to disrupt the industry one key city at a time. They've already started delivering groceries in Seattle, so perhaps that's the first step to Amazon Delivery Service.

Those last-mile costs exist regardless. It's just that with Wal-Mart, the customer pays the costs in occasional lump sums to the local gas station and garage and very occasionally to the car dealership, rather than paying Wal-Mart.

This is, of course, very much to Wal-Mart's advantage. Americans really hate to think about the cost of their cars and really love to drive them, so the perception will generally avoid factoring in the costs of driving to and from the store into the final prices.

However, make a big enough difference and people will notice. If Amazon can offer a price that's lower than Wal-Mart's and deliver it for much less than it costs to drive to the store, people will notice.

I don't see why they couldn't, eventually. Warehouse logistics are much easier when you don't have to deal with customers wandering around. Transport is subject to economies of scale like anything else, and it should be possible to make it much cheaper to use one truck to deliver to 100 houses than it costs to have 100 people individually drive back and forth.

In short, I think I'm agreeing with you that delivery is where Amazon should concentrate if they want to compete in this area.

However, some people go to Walmart regardless, so the cost is amortized with a trip to get milk. China has a very competitive delivery market, and you can get milk, along with dinner, delivered fairly easy by guys on electric bikes. We bought a VIP card to a food delivery service, and have dinner delivered almost nightly during the week; what is quite funny is that the restaurant we get the food from is in a mall just 10 minutes away by walking.

> This is, of course, very much to Wal-Mart's advantage. Americans really hate to think about the cost of their cars and really love to drive them, so the perception will generally avoid factoring in the costs of driving to and from the store into the final prices.

I honestly think that is in flux. Wal-mart's recent inane suggestion that some customers do delivery for others is an example that they're aware of the problem. Their recent downturn in sales is another. The inflection point is coming.

Amazon (Amazon Fresh) and Google (Shopping Express) are skating to where the puck is going to be - optimized delivery services as a booster to existing retail storefronts.

That is a great idea! It could be like Uber for the delivery industry. Going shopping with your car? Want to make an extra few bucks? Deliver these bags back to about where you are returning anyways.

InstaCart bills itself as uber for groceries, but I think something like TaskRabbit + Uber, where it's "crowdsourced" instead of using hired reps is a great idea too.

You forgot the time cost of driving to Walmart.

But I don't want things delivered to my doorstep, and I doubt I am the only one.

I am rarely home during the day (I work) and I don't like having expensive items sitting on my porch in the weather where anyone can swipe it.

I'd rather stop by a 24-hour (drive through) facility where I can swipe my credit card and get my package when I am ready. It's more convenient for me and it saves last-mile shipping costs.

I wonder if package depositories will become as ubiquitous as regular mailboxes in time.

I sort of have this already. I'm in a newly built neighborhood, and the mailboxes are all in groups. There's a bunch of big boxes each containing 12-15 small mailboxes, one per house. Each big box also contains one or two larger mailboxes for packages. When I get a package that doesn't fit in the small letter box, the mailman puts it in one of the package boxes, then puts the key in my mailbox. Some clever mechanical design makes it so that the key can't be removed from the package lock once inserted, and so it stays there to be recovered and reused by the mailman.

There are two problems with this approach:

1. The package box is still fairly small, so bigger items have to go the more traditional route.

2. Much more importantly, since it's with the mailboxes, only the USPS can use them. UPS, FedEx, and others are stuck with the more traditional approach.

Still, it's a start. With the massive increase in packages being delivered perhaps it will become more common.

Amazon Locker is almost that service (it's not drive-through). Most of the locations seem to be inside 7-11 stores, but it's just what you describe - walk in, type in or scan your code, pick up your package.

I don't think they will get into "delivery business". Most likely they will use their own delivery for last mile in the high density areas, but will not make it available as service to competition and will keep it as competitive advantage.

I, for one, is happy Prime customer. We got it accidentally with some promotion and renewing ever since, I couldn't justify getting it, turns out it totally worth it because of convenience.

My only complaint is inconvenience with deliveries over weekend. Quite often I need something on weekend and right now I have to order it by Wednesday night to get it (to be fair, recently they started to do some deliveries on Saturday). It's very frustrating when I recall something I need to use on the weekend on Friday and there is no way to get it on Sunday. Jeff Bezos, solve last mile and deliver 7 days a week already!

Thanks for posting the link. I hadn't seen that planet money documentary [1] before and I found it extremely interesting.

[1] http://apps.npr.org/tshirt/#/title

I absolutely love Amazon's Locker service. It only works in large urban areas, but it allows them to cut out much of those last-mile costs. I hope it's working for them.

But Amazon Locker deliveries aren't any cheaper or faster than normal Prime deliveries, at least when I looked into it a year or so ago in San Francisco. The only use case as far as I could tell was you could have things delivered there if you don't have a secure place at home for packages to be dropped.

And they're not the only one deploying lockers. The integer.pl group is starting to invest hundred of millions of dollars to installing 10k+ lockers worldwide.

This is will be integrated with amazon's warehouse robots.

I'm currently living in the UK, and some of my packages are delivered by 'amazon logistics'

So your response to an article explaining how Amazon cranking up their prices now they've destroyed their competition in once niche is to... cheer Amazon on in destroying other niches?

They are, what do you think this AmazonFresh push is about?

Or just buy fedex.

The entire larger point of the post seems to be being missed, which isn't specifically about Amazon Prime at all. The point is that the big players in the online services space are competing in a "my way or the highway" fashion that ends up making everything a little worse.

You may not agree with Arment's take on Amazon Instant Video -- personally, I'm a Prime customer but haven't been interested in Amazon's video service because it seemed to mostly overlap with Netflix and because until fairly recently getting it on my TV was more of a pain than I was willing to put up with, because I have an Apple TV and Amazon and Apple wouldn't cross the street to piss on each other if they were on fire. But Google Maps is no longer used for iOS's native map program in large part because Google wanted access to iOS customers Apple didn't want to give, and because of that iOS native maps are worse (and Google lost tens of millions of map users). Google is making all their services a little worse by trying to tie everything up with Google+. Amazon's refusal to support EPUB makes my Kindle a little worse. And so on and so on.

HN readers seem to engage in a lot of debate over whether Google and Amazon are "better" than Apple when it comes to ecosystem lock-in. But all of those services only work with approved devices using approved players with approved content. What you're arguing about is the size of the cage you're in.

Marco is using a complete straw man here He takes a optional add on service (Amazon Prime) which a company offers value to its "its most dedicated customers". Then he compares it to other companies require of you to use their service.

You are in no way required to have Amazon Prime to use Amazon. If it doesn't make sense to you, then cancel it. Amazon is still happy to have you as a customer without it.

It feels like people are complaining they bought a car, asked for the sunroof option, and now are loudly complaining that cars shouldn't have sunroofs.

They bought a car, chose the sunroof option, got the sunroof plus a bluetooth module they don't use. Every time they use the sunroof, they have to click through a popup advertising the bluetooth. The cost of the bluetooth may or may not have been included in the sunroof price, it's not clear.

Ironically, some cars I've been looking into lately only offer the sunroof bundled with some touchscreen navigation system I don't really want.

Yeah, Marco is just being a whiner here. Amazon Prime is a great service, and Amazon Instant Video as an included bonus to Prime is a great deal.

I don't know what his problem with Amazon is, but he's way off base in my opinion.

I don't know what his problem with Amazon is, but he's way off base in my opinion.

His problem with Amazon is that they aren't Apple.

In all fairness, he does call out Apple (a little bit), but I do think that the issues with Amazon or Google are nothing compared to the lock-down you get with Apple (or used to with Microsoft).

Disagree completely with the fearmongering.

"Its shipping deals always felt unsustainable, so in the absence of other changes, I’d feel that the extra $20 per year was justified."

So what exactly is the problem being decried? Amazon increases the cost of a "free shipping" plan that was previously seemed unsustainable.

Oh, and Amazon bundles free videos with Prime as it wants to get into the media delivery business ruled by Netflix and make it cheaper. It already doss this with books but now wants to enter the game to challenge Google's Play and Apple's iTunes Store. This is MORE competition in the mobile OS + media delivery space. Let Amazon enter it. It already has one of the most sophisticated infrastructures in the world, with AWS - which by the way is its biggest revenue center.

If you want to be concerned about anything, be concerned about the effect these economies of scale will have on the American worker. With self driving cars from google and packing robots from Amazon and giant data centers from Apple, who will need record stores, bookstores, newspapers, cab drivers, oh wait..

> So what exactly is the problem being decried?

The problem is that the price is being jacked up despite the other changes! He said it was reasonable without the other changes, but the other changes happened. These "other changes" are the variable (and often significantly higher) overnight shipping costs and the add-on program making it harder for you to buy a large amount of smaller items they used to offer (and yes, the add-on program means they offer items they didn't before, but that's irrelevant to this point).

Are the variable shipping costs WITHOUT Amazon Prime?

> bundles free videos with Prime

They're not free, they're part of the $99 fee. I don't watch TV and I don't want to be charged extra so they can give me "free" TV I didn't ask for.

You're assuming that Amazon would be able to profitably offer a meaningfully cheaper "shipping-only" Prime service. I doubt it. Shipping is expensive, and the kind of people who would be inclined to subscribe to that service are likely to be the ones who make heavy use of the free shipping.

If $99 isn't worth the shipping options you get from Prime, and you aren't interested in the video service, there's always the option of not using Prime and paying for shipping as you use it.

You are going to get charged $99 either way. Prime video has always been, and continues to be an add on to the Prime membership. Remember when we paid $79 just for shipping, then they added video much later? I'm not saying it will always be this way, I can see there being a multi-tier Prime system sometime down the road.

I love to think of all of these things as opportunities. Giants are staggering around, losing focus and getting in to petty fights. Isn't that the perfect time for new things? How exciting.

Meh. Of course this is "worse", it isn't something from the Gods Who Are Named Apple.

> Amazon announced this week that it’s increasing the price of Amazon Prime from $80 to $100 per year, its first price change since its introduction in 2005.

> This has not been a popular decision, to put it lightly, but most Prime customers — which I’ve been since 2005 — aren’t really going anywhere. There’s nowhere to go. Amazon has either destroyed or bought every competitor that has ever come close to its retail business.

This sounds redundant. There is complaining about lack of competition, yet you still keep using the service (and are part of destroying that competition by using Amazon).

The addon program has added items which would have never been on the site previously, so that is a win, I'm sure other items which just can't be shipped by themselves cost effectively have been removed, but times change. Streaming videos are also an addition that are a win for those who use it. Also your bill is going up from $6.66 a month (the cost of one beer) to $8.33 (the cost of 1.5 beers) a month for streaming video and 2 day shipping on tons of items, I don't see a ton to complain about. I'm surprise the price hasn't been jacked up years ago just due to increasing shipping costs across the board.

I guess you missed:

"Apple’s Maps is still worse and has fewer features than Google Maps"

"Many of Apple’s other applications and services have suffered as well as they’ve spread themselves too thinly and competed on more fronts."

> The addon program has added items which would have never been on the site previously, so that is a win

This isn't correct. I have items in my purchase history that were not Add-On items and now are. Maybe some new items are here because of add-on, but it's also true that existing items used to be purchasable by themselves and now are only available as add-ons.

Those items would have been deleted from the site without the addon program and not available anymore at all because it is probably no longer viable to ship them standalone, so the addon program is a is a net win.

How do you know that?

From every add-on items description:

"This item is available because of the Add-on program The Add-on program allows Amazon to offer thousands of low-priced items that would be cost-prohibitive to ship on their own."

These tiny items wouldn't be stocked at all if they didn't offer them via add-on, somewhere in their literature they've said these items are only stocked because of this program.

Because they couldn't possibly be lying?

Sigh. I guess that is conspiracy theory default now days for things you are unable to prove.

It is not a "conspiracy theory" to think that companies might be putting a positive spin on (i.e. lying about) changes made to increase their bottom line. That's what companies do.

I didn't see any mention of inflation. $79 in 2005 when prime was launched is equivalent to $96 today.

People don't feel inflation the way that the CPI states it. The CPI's "basket of goods" is full of things that nobody cares about (like CD-ROMs, VCRs), and it is supposed to apply to the whole country, despite how diverse expenditure types can be (For example, I spend < $200/mo on transportation, but $2500/mo on rent, whereas when I lived in Cleveland it was nearly the opposite).

This article is not about Amazon Prime particularly, its about this quote:

They want to lock everyone into everything. Just like everyone else. And we’re all worse off for it.

Thats the core of the problem. Current monetisation models are based on lock in and annoying ads, and no decent alternative models seem to be on the horizon.

If he really wanted to call out lockin, he'd be shouting about Apple's lockin from the highest parapet, as they are much worse than just about everyone else out there (Microsoft included!). But of course this is Marco, so I was surprised when he called out Apple at all.

I'm an Amazon Prime customer who has experienced no lockin, so I'm not sure what Marco is going on about.

I'm an Amazon Prime customer who has experienced no lockin, so I'm not sure what Marco is going on about.

As someone not using Amazon prime, this is one of the great thing about services and leasing stuff vs owning it. I know some of you swear to owning everything, but in this new brave world of platform lock-in, owning things becomes a prison in a much more literal way than the Buddhists ever imagined.

Had I bought stuff from the Apple iStore, I would be stuck with DRMed media I wouldn't be able to consume on any other devices than those made by Apple. If I've first invested in this system, leaving it means my media will lose may stop being playable, turning worthless, and existing devices may not work correctly with other music download-services, etc.

This vertical integration becomes a set of vertical pilars surrounding you on all sides. Leaving one thing means leaving it all behind. It has a very high cost. Very few people will do that unless they are presented with something truly incredible as a reward. And things like that comes along very rarely.

If I on the contrary used Spotify to consume music I would have nothing to lose if I stopped subscribing to their service. Leaving for a better service is completely free of cost and would only present me benefits.

Prime has hiked in price here in the UK too, with the bundled video.


It's still worth it here IMO. In fact, Prime here in the UK is about a million lightyears ahead of the US because of the size of the country :)

Free next day shipping is really brilliant for a heavy Amazon buyer like me.

I was actually a Lovefilm user from before the Amazon buyout. I fondly remember the day they were primarily a physical rental service - the warehouse was not far from me and the postal service fantastic. Their catalogue was huge.

Their online service has always been mediocre; about the same as Netflix, Sky and BT.

But the combination of on-demand video and free next day is still worth it to me.

After some research, IMO the combination of Sky (satellite TV with on-demand offering) and Amazon Prime (free next day delivery + on-demand video) is the best combination of price & coverage. I can get 99.9% of the things I want for reasonable price.

Looking at the US service, it doesn't even compare :(

Yes, the delivery situation is much better here, so much so that I can get free 2-day shipping to a shop a few minutes walk away (which is better in some ways as it doesn't require you to be in) since they have introduced collect+, making prime almost completely unnecessary for those near a collect+ location.

Same in Germany, price went up from 25 to 45 euros, but is definitely still worth it. Their video catalogue is not all that bad either, though lacking original language (non-dubbed) films. But then again, Netflix is not available in Germany so far.

I've been a prime customer for 7 ish years. I'm ok with the new price. Im extremely happy with the service, appreciate a lot of the new features (instant video, lending library), and overall Im not off put by tweaks like add ons that make the service more economically efficient and thus viable.

I get way more than $100 worth of simplicity from being a member of prime.

My only complaint: create an instant video app for android already.

My complaint is: Why do I have to install Silverlight on my Mac to use amazon video while you can stream to your iPad without silverlight?

DRM. Until HTML5 standardizes DRM across browsers, these sites relying on DRM won't be getting rid of Silverlight and Flash.

Incidentally, Netflix has started using HTML5 instead of Silverlight/Flash, but only on Internet Explorer 11 on Windows 8.1, since HTML5 DRM extensions are available on that platform: http://www.extremetech.com/computing/159960-netflix-switches...

On the iPad you don't have to install Silverlight, but you do have to install the proprietary Amazon Instant Video app -- so it's not exactly a better situation. They could replace Silverlight with a Mac app called "Amazon Instant Video" and that wouldn't make the situation any better. In the end, they need a streaming video client that supports DRM that the movie studios approve of.

Additionally, as is mentioned, they also support Flash on desktops, which most people already have installed. However, the Flash streaming is not as great -- it most-likely uses RTSP, an older stateful streaming protocol, versus their Silverlight client likely uses Smoothstreaming (or similar), a HTTP-based adaptive streaming format.

I have no idea if it affects which videos are available to watch free, but there is an option under settings to use Flash videos instead of Silverlight. I stumbled upon it the other day while doing some troubleshooting.

Are you talking about Netflix? Amazon's video player uses Flash.

No, Amazon uses silverlight by default. Under their options for web player, they even say "Experience less buffering and enjoy HD titles with Microsoft Silverlight." and the option is "Silverlight (Recommended)"

Ah, I wasn't even aware since I don't have Silverlight installed, and Amazon automatically fellback to Flash. I installed Silverlight to compare, but it crashes in Chrome and I get "Content Permissions Error (6023)" in Firefox.

Because they have a competing OS called Fire OS.

I feel in general there are some things getting muddled together that probably shouldn't.

First, you have free services that are using various forms of the walled garden model to generate revenue. That's hardly surprising, new, and really anything worth complaining about. If you don't like it, go use that highly successful paid service that doesn't have the ad revenue. Oh wait...

Then there is the thread about bundling all of Amazon's services through Prime. Prime is clearly a play to leverage all of Amazon's services in to one big compelling service. Since Amazon still provides their services at competitive rates without Prime, I'm not sure how anyone can gripe about this.

Finally, there is the issue of Prime's price going up. I don't think it has anything to do with bundling other services, and everything to do with the program a) being successful (and you see this in competitors adopting similar services) and b) suffering from increased costs everywhere else. Guess what? No matter how much software, and the reverse inflation that comes with it, eats the world, the rest of the world still suffers from the usual challenges of increasing costs. In 2005, when Prime was launched, the price of first class mail has increased 32.4%, which is actually more than the 25% increase in Prime. Maybe there is no sinister agenda....

I really couldn't disagree with this post any more. While I think he raises several points that are applicable to him, none apply to me.

I have also been a prime subscriber since 2005 and it has paid for itself many times over in shipping costs alone. I have had bunk beds, computers, televisions all shipped second day for free. Rarely have I had issues, I would continue to pay for the service even if it was twice what it is now.

And I do use the streaming service quite regularly. I have not had cable for quite some time so I use streaming services for close to 50% of my at home entertainment. Of that, I think the amazon library is one of the better available.

At any rate, I have been and will hopefully continue to be a happy prime subscriber for at least another year.

And this year's Academy Award for Best First World Problems Post goes to................

Seriously, all of these companies compete for their customers. They're going to try and optimize their offerings to keep their customers. Sometimes they'll do a good job - like iMessage meaning no texting costs and locking people into the platform. Sometimes they'll do a sucky job, like Google + accounts. Half the time they'll be doing both simultaneously (iMessage and Maps) Those that irritate their customers over the long run will.......surprise surprise.....drive them to the better competitor platform.

Both ways uphill in a snowstorm.

Amazon could raise the price of Prime by 2x and I would still keep it. I buy so much shit through Amazon. I kinda wish I could spread my dollars out among more online retailers, but Amazon and Newegg are the only ones (based on lots of experience) who I can trust on the shipping front. If they say the package is going to be there on day XYZ, there is a 99.999% chance (in my experience) of it appearing on day XYZ. Of course this only applies when bought from them directly (or if 'fulfilled by Amazon', I try to avoid the 3rd party sellers who don't fulfill through Amazon as much as any other store I can't trust to get shipping right).

Every other retailer I've dealt with online will do stupid shit like allow me to pay for 2 day shipping and then send the package out 3 days after I order it.

Nail completely consistent and predictable shipping and I might buy stuff from you, otherwise you're at best 4th in line behind Amazon, Newegg and every brick and mortar store within 20 miles.

> there is a 99.999% chance (in my experience)

You have bought 100000 items, and only 1 didn't arrive on time? Really?

You know, when if I had problems like that, I would show my discontent with the only meaningful way: I'd stop using the service. Like I do it with Google (aside from Youtube, where I can't comment any more), Facebook and many other things a lot of people keep complaining about but never do the one thing that matters. STOP USING THE DAMN THING.

Sure, but now you have lost the primary benefit of the service. Some principles are definitely worth that total walkout.

But modern companies are masters at figuring just how much they can annoy their customers without pushing too many of them to leave. The point of the article is that, for us customers, things get "worse".

What I find frustrating is that when I go to the Amazon Video on my PS3 there doesn't seem to be a way to say "Just show me the free videos". It insists on mixing the free and paid ones.

Which is rubbish when I'm just looking to see what's available to watch.

If you pick the "Prime Instant Videos" section at the top, it is exactly this, right?

I don't think there is a way to "search" only for Prime videos. But if you are only wanting to browse, I am 90% sure that is covered. (Currently letting the kids watch stuff, so can't verify the section name.)

Fair points aside I want to know why people still harp on Google+ at this point.

> Google, the geek world’s undeserved, unquestioned darling for well over a decade, has made all of its core products worse by forcefully shoving Google+ into them.

This sentiment is so frustrating to me. Yes, Google introduced an identity service so they no longer needed to tie everything to one of your Gmail accounts. This means you can now link your Gmail accounts together, this development is fantastic.

Along with it comes bundled a really good social network application. Which, hello everyone, don't use it if you don't want it. Allowing everyone with Google accounts to talk to each other in a social medium and aggregate content relevant to their interests. Youtube integration was arguably a detriment to Google+ because it caused an influx of terrible content from late Google+ adopters.

Youtube is a social product, Google+ was a newer much more powerful social product. Google had two social products so it merged them together. Inarguably (at least I don't see how you could argue) improving Youtube.

What is an example of Google+ making anything worse?

When will tech bloggers embrace Google's introduction of their identity service, they badly needed one and Google+ is amazing by any standard.

I think the idea is, G+ is cluttering up the api for everything else. When in fact it gets used not at all, by almost everybody. So that's definitely worse, for almost everybody, doing almost anything with Google products.

So, that's worse.

>There’s nowhere to go. Amazon has either destroyed or bought every competitor that has ever come close to its retail business.

There's nowhere to go because people like you gave their money to Amazon. Congratulations! Shall I cry you a river now?

"Showing this once is bad enough, but I see it regularly. Amazon is now annoying their best customers with desperate, obnoxious, tricky interstitial ads. (Of course, the checkbox is checked by default.)"

Email Bezos. He takes this sort of thing very seriously, assuming you can present a rational argument. He won't reply directly, but he will see it. Jeff@

Hmm all I get is an empty page. Yet another case of not being able to handle HN traffic?

That is an interesting coincidence, because around the time of your post, I was having a similar problem on a couple of other sites (techmeme and recode). The pages loaded OK, but were completely blank.

Same here. I don't think it has to do with HN traffic since Arment's blog is often on the front page.

Doubt it; his blog is a static site.

I got that for a few minutes too but it started working again.

If I click on one more movie title in AmazonPrime Instant Video that is simply not offered in any form at all (streaming, rental, purchase, nada), I am going to cry.

I'm sorry, I accidentally downvoted you when I was trying to upvote someone else.

To make up for it, I've given an abundance of upvotes on some of your other comments elsewhere.

My apologies.

I have tried amazon instant video. People keep saying they love netflix, but netflix has a huge problem - they keep losing content all the time. So I used Amazon instant video to watch a show that i started watching on netflix and which disappeared from netflix soon thereafter.

Amazon instant video is ok once you start watching, but their software is pretty bad and much much worse than netflix. Both amazon and netflix have to spread their software on many devices (such as computers, tablets, tv's and dozens of settop streaming devices) but it seems to me on every single device i have tried the amazon software is really annoying.

I think a big part of the problem is that they are trying to sell both free instant video and their paid service.

I don't know where this guy lives, but prime has only been getting better. I've never seen a next day fee greater than 3.99. Same day delivery was added not too long ago and it costs 3.99. what unbalanced bs link bait.

Here, I found one for you with about 45 seconds of effort: http://snappy-app.com/s/show.php?pass=a550109d1fb9b47c65d29a...

In my experience, many items are well over $3.99. "Local express delivery" and/or one-day shipping has always been $7.99 or higher in NYC. Prime's 'extra' features for even faster shipping are abysmal compared to what it used to be.

"This has not been a popular decision, to put it lightly"

From all the forum comments/responses I've seen, Prime customers seem just fine with it. Maybe we read different news websites?

I thought the same thing. I haven't really heard any complaints. Most comments are more along the line of "Amazon increased Prime rates by $20. I hope they don't figure out how much more I would actually pay"

I buy enough stuff from amazon that I would spend way more than $100 a year on shipping anyway. Getting the free videos and kindle lending is just a nice little bonus.

It's too bad Marco hasn't watched any videos on Amazon. They have some pretty good original shows. Betas is a funny caricature of the startup life we all live. It's cheesy, but relatively accurate and at times pretty funny. Alpha House is fantastic. It's like a comedy version of House of Cards.

> Betas is a funny caricature of the startup life we all live.

It is? I tried watching the first episode and I couldn't even make it through the whole thing. That shows was the most cringe-worthy thing I've seen in a very long time.

I actually thought the same thing as I watched it. Once I realized that the cringe was intentional and that it was poking fun at how ridiculous some "startup people" are, I actually started to like it.

It's not my favorite TV show by any means, but I definitely enjoyed it.

Sure, it was intentional, but that doesn't make it any more watchable.

Prime's prepaid shipping deal is more and more a shell game these days, since the price of an object sold with Prime is often (usually?) as much as, or more expensive than, an identical one including 2-day shipping.

Sounds positively hilarious…

For me, I believe Netflix content is far superior to Amazon's. That doesn't prove anything.

I think the main point which Marco is trying to make it is the inflexibility I as a consumer should have over choosing what I want and pricing the products accordingly. In some ways, it is similar to the wireless carriers post paid plans (until T-Mobile and AT&T recently changed this) where you paid the same monthly bill whether you get your phone or use a contract one. Consumers do not have option to opt out and pay for the entire bundle - thus also getting a far inferior product (Amazon Instant Videos) with a far superior one (2 day shipping).

After this Prime price change and the fact that California purchases are taxed, I will not be renewing my Prime account. I have noticed that for most of my electronic/tech product shopping, I don't use Amazon anyways as I always have found things cheaper on competing sites (Adorama, Newegg, eBay or Apple). For the rest, I am fine with 4 day shipping instead of 2 day and, as Marco mentioned, for increasing number of Amazon products are now classified as Add-on products which is not cool as well..

Adjusted for inflation, isn't

$80 in 2005 = $100 in 2014

Pretty sure it's darn near if not right on the money.

$79 in 2005 is apparently $94.62 in 2014.


The CPI is an average based on a somewhat arbitrary bundle of goods which individually vary in price. People are used to the price of internet services declining over time (e.g. Google drive pricing), but Amazon prime incorporates things like shipping and movie royalties, which probably follow inflation similar to the CPI. Delivery companies surely increase in efficiency by adopting new technology, but they are also highly dependent on the cost of equipment, fuel, and labor. In the first few paragraphs, Marco only mentions the nominal cost, not the fact that the real price has been declining for eight years. Amazon probably went with $100 because its about right, which might be high or low for their bottom line, because consumers respond well to round numbers.

Anyone who has a .edu email address can get Amazon student, which is free for 6 months and then 50% off forever.


You should try not being a Prime subscriber. You get the interstitials appearing on every bloody purchase.

Many times on amazon i have found the same products from their marketplace vendors that cost the same with shipping as the prime product with "free shipping". With the exception of books which nobody can compete with on price, and large expensive to ship items, prime isnt a veey good deal.

I think the key assumption here that is wrong is that Amazon is this amazing retail outlet that you just need to use.

I disagree, as someone who has been a huge customer.

Why? Amazon prices suck, and have gotten increasingly less competitive over the years. The huge 3rd party vendor market on Amazon makes it very difficult to identify product that you want to. It on many cases as well.

The whole premise of Amazon Prime was to push the uncertainty of shipping time out of online shopping out of the purchase equation. That experience is both being watered down and made more expensive. If they don't deliver on the premise/promise, there are literally thousands of competitors for just about any product.

IMO, Amazon needs to stop patting themselves on the back and focus on the customer experience.

I don't shop at enough Amazon to make prime shipping economically beneficial to me. In most cases free ground shipping is alright, and occasionally paying for 2 day shipping works out to be cheaper than $100 per year.

I bought prime subscription anyway; not for shipping but for Amazon Instant Video. I won't be renewing it because Amazon Instant Video has been disappointing so far. There isn't enough content on Amazon Prime. Worse part, their Xbox app plays video in 360p resolution.

I had similar experience with Netflix as well. Even after paying for several on-demand Video services, I have to use Torrents. Torrents offer the most convenience, it has the largest content library, best video quality and no stupid DRM & restrictions.

I see arguments about whether or not Amazon Instant Video is worth the money, but I think that's beside the point, isn't it? The important part of the discussion here is that Amazon Instant Video is not of interest to a large number of existing Amazon Prime subscribers, and they are likely paying the price for those who use it.

It's a bit of a frustrating trend to see companies bundling new technologies like this, often at the expense of their loyal customers. I am an Amazon Prime subscriber, and will continue to be one, but I would love it if Amazon Instant video were a separate subscription that I could choose to pay for on its own merits.

I approach it differently. I pay no attention to the plans, the memberships, the cards and the programs. I buy the best deal I can get on the spot.

It costs some more, but honestly I'm not talking about buying a car or a house so its 'petty cash' purchases we're talking about.

And I get my dignity back. No more struggling to satisfy some program requirements; no getting 2nd-rate tickets because of the 'miles' I think I need. I just buy what I want, and I pay for it.

SO no not a 'member' of anything. This is a 1st-world solution I know. But if you can afford it, well I recommend it.

Amazon's upselling and cross-selling methods are good examples of dark patterns: design working to harm its users. http://darkpatterns.org/

"But I suspect the changes to overnight rates and Add-On Items would have been enough to keep Prime’s shipping costs sustainable, and these haven’t been the only changes."

That's seems extremely speculative.

It is definitely worth noting that Amazon has a shareholder problem. Yes, they have devoured everything large and small but profit margins are razor thin. One of the most brilliant things that Jeff Bezos did was telling his early investors not to see a return for several years, but the market does and will demand returns. Given that Costco makes most of its profit on membership fees it will be interesting to see if the Prime increase is sufficient to both sustain or improve service levels and increase profitability.

Personally, I find that eBay (at least in the UK) has proven itself to have the best shipping, selection, service and price. Especially with it's new "Fast and free" promotion

"They want to lock everyone into everything. Just like everyone else. And we’re all worse off for it."

dat. every company mankind has produced. every ruler, too. Meh.

While we are talking about Amazon Prime - there still seems to be a round about way to get Prime at the old yearly rate of $79 - even if you are a currently active Prime member. See this for details - http://www.reddit.com/r/deals/comments/20ckxa/you_can_lock_i...

There are some areas where Amazon definitely outshines Netflix, particularly children's programming, which honestly is 80% of the streaming video my family does - Amazon has all the Nickelodeon shows, which Netflix doesn't, which is a key edge for them. We recently went back to cable after cord-cutting 5 years ago, and prime video allowed me to drop Netflix and Hulu without much disruption to our viewing.

I mostly agree with the OP here, but I will say this: Prime Instant Video was the main reason I actually finally signed up for Prime. The shipping part is nice, but I don't actually order that much physical "stuff" from Amazon.

With the price increase, I'm not sure if I'll stay a Prime member or not though. I do use Prime Video, but I'm not sure I use it enough to justify this price.

I'm surely a rare exception. I don't buy stuff from Amazon (I might if they would tell me what carrier they were going to use before shipping. Where I live I have a different address for USPS than I do for other carriers.) But I did subscribe to Prime for the video. I'm not sure I will stick with them with the price increase, since I don't use them half as much as I use netflix.

Hope they don't do it here in Canada. With no Amazon Video service here, there already isn't much reason to buy Prime.

This might have an interesting product positioning aspect:

Amazon is calling the product "prime", but it is actually a way to save money. Hence, this is no premium product and there is no actual perception as a premium product by customers.

Raising prices for an actual premium product wouldn't be an issue, but it seems actual product aspects and not naming counts.

I can't say that I feel at all betrayed or ill treated in the Amazon increase. Maybe I would be more annoyed if my change did not go into affect Jan of next year, but as it is, I feel I've gotten more than a fair deal out of this.

Of course, I actually use the heck out of the video service... As noted in the top thread, it really is quite nice.

As a Canadian Amazon customer, I'm used to this second class treatment.

With a fraction of the inventory, no "addon items", no access to Prime Instant Video or Kindle Lending Library, there's absolutely no reason for Amazon.ca customers to subscribe to Prime, even at $79.

It's worse, but I wouldn't say there's "no reason". I make almost all of my purchases on amazon; their selection has improved greatly in the past year.

Adding Prime has removed much of the friction from the process. I don't have to group items together to get free shipping. Yet I also find I'm not making impulse purchases, so it works out well.

Mental space is precious, so removing the planning from amazon purchasing has helped, even if I spend a bit more money.

Yeah, I've spent a couple of late nights scrambling trying to think of one item I want to buy from Amazon to pad an order out to the desired price.

Freeing myself from that bit of mental gymnastics might be worth it.

Interesting. I guess my usage of Amazon deviates from the norm then. I don't think I've ever struggled to put more than $25 in my cart, and I've never elected for a more expensive shipping option.

Aside: On Amazon.ca, the cheapest (free) shipping method has always outperformed the promise for express shipping. If they say 5-8 days, it's there in 2-3. My record was ordering a product on a Saturday afternoon, selecting free shipping, and getting it Monday morning. I was dumbfounded that was even possible.

I often buy a single book, usually $11. I might buy a $14 book two days later, but I don't want to keep track, or buy more than I want to for free shipping

iirc, I've started seeing "addon items" in the Canadian store.

Just getting a blank page. Google cache here: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3Ahttp%...

> because Amazon bundled in a video service nobody wants since 2011

I like Amazon video quite a bit actually.

Worse for whom? This is actually wonderful for amazon shareholders as it demonstrates that amazon finally started to think about generating some serious cash surplus.

All that said I have no amazon stock and I am a prime user, so I feel your pain.

No, it doesn't. It will likely generate more free cash flow, though, allowing Amazon to invest in more things more quickly.

Ego, greed, absence (or loss) of vision... This is how products are "improved" over time.

For the most part, it's a natural result of a process driven by the demands of growth and managed by psychopaths.

Canceled my Prime membership just now. I don't want any videos, I consider them a waste of time, so they are upping prices to make me pay for offering me a waste of time easier. Greeeeeat.

I wonder what the cost of Google Shopping Express will be. I found myself choosing GSE over Amazon several time because on smaller items is cheaper and you can't beat same day delivery.

I don't think Marco knows what lock-in means. Not to mention, his concluding sentence is a string of absolutes that almost makes me think he's writing a satire of some sort.

Hah, I think I wrote exactly the same post a couple days ago:


Pretty sure NewEgg and crew have competitive options to Amazon...

Just take a look at China with multiples of these. Many companies are using their influence to attack smaller companies and there is virtually no antitrust laws.

whilst it's true that Apple maps is not as good as Google maps yet, especially outside the US, it strikes me as the odd one out here.

Apple wanted to make maps better but couldn't do so with Google as the supplier without making unacceptable privacy compromises.

The current state is temporarily worse, but only because their supplier was uncooperative.

There's more than two maps suppliers out there. While it's true that Apple probably couldn't realistically proceed with Google, nothing forced Apple to partner with the cheapest and worst one out there (TomTom) when making the switch.

Apple Maps could have been much better if Apple had cared to make it so. They didn't, and that's on them, not anyone else.

Who exactly are you suggesting they should have partnered with, and what do you know about what those other partners would have demanded in return?

Seriously, if it's so easy for you to righteously deride them, you presumably have some credible suggestions about how they could make it better if only they wanted to.

OpenStreetMap, Nokia, Microsoft, MapQuest, off the top of my head.

Frankly, the claim that Apple Maps was the best possible mapping product Apple could have made requires far more support than the claim that Apple could have done better.

Which of those are you claiming are better than Apple's maps? Only Microsoft and Nokia seem like they might be contenders, and given that at the time they were just as competitive towards Apple as Google, what makes you think they offered a more credible deal?

The claim that Apple could have done better absolutely requires qualification otherwise it's just more empty bashing. Without qualification it is a claim that can be made against anyone about anything. Knowing that someone could have done better requires understanding the options available to them.

Apple trusts Microsoft enough to run a bunch of their infrastructure on Azure. I don't see why their maps couldn't be trusted too.

OSM is also good. Better than what Apple got, anyway.

Of course, my experience was that a blank sheet of paper would be better than Apple Maps when it was introduced. While a blank sheet of paper contains no information, it also won't steer you wrong, and that means it comes out ahead.

What kind of qualification are you looking for?

Azure is a standard service offering and is a commodity that competes with AWS which Apple also uses.

Given your general intelligence, it's actually hard for me to believe that you can't see that Microsoft would have leverage when negotiating to be the replacement for Google maps, and the terms might have been unacceptable.

It's also quite reasonable that having been dependent on one hostile supplier for maps, Apple would need want to control it's own destiny with the replacement otherwise it would just be repeating the same mistake that they made with Google.

Your comments about the blank sheet of paper make it unclear that you are offering a serious opinion here.

I was looking for some actual insight or information about how Apple could have made maps better, but it doesn't seem like you have any to support your claim.

It sounds like it just boils down to 'I wish they'd used OSM'.

That's a really smooth move there, calling me stupid under the guise of calling me smart. I like it! I'll have to remember that.

My experience with Apple Maps was that it steered me wrong more than it steered me right. That made it literally worse than nothing. If you think that implies that I don't have a serious opinion, well, I can't affect what you think.

I honestly don't see why you need anything beyond "they should have gone with anyone, anyone besides TomTom, who has the worst maps in the industry". It would have required some sort of compromise on their part? Well duh. Obviously they went with TomTom because TomTom's position at the bottom of the heap gave Apple lots of power. Apple clearly prioritized power in the relationship over quality of the resulting product. That's their right. But that doesn't make the resulting product better.

I'm not calling you stupid. I'm accusing you of not using your intelligence at a point when to do so would invalidate part of your argument

I agree with you that Apple prioritized power over the near-term quality of the resulting product. That was the point I made in the first place.

In order to be able to make maps better at their own pace, they must have control over it otherwise they would just be held hostage again. The alternative is not compromise; it's defeat.

This is why simply presenting a list of other vendors doesn't change the equation. Control is a hard technical requirement.

Then I honestly haven't the slightest idea what point you're trying to make.

You seem to be basically saying, Apple Maps sucks but it's OK because Apple decided that was the best way to proceed.

Which is obvious (why would they have proceeded in a way that they didn't think was the best?) and thus completely uninteresting.

No. I am not saying anything like that trivial straw man which is intentionally uninteresting because you wrote it that way.

I'm saying that a short term reduction in performance was necessary in order for Apple to obtain the control they need to make maps better in future rather than being hamstrung by this key service being owned by a competitor.

Yeah, that part is a misdiagnosis. Amazon and Google (and I guess Samsung and Facebook) all seem to want the full (Gates era) Microsoft. Conversely Apple certainly never wanted to be in the maps business but when their maps partner became their biggest competitor they didn't have a lot of other great options.

Why the downvotes other than blatant partisanship? This comment doesn't dispute the idea that Apple maps is worse, and it's well documented that Google and Apple couldn't come to terms.

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