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Web Watch by Leslie Walker

Amazon Delivers New Service Expressly For Frequent Shoppers

By Leslie Walker
Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page F07

There must be a lot of shop-a-holics out there who just can't wait to get their fix from Amazon.com.

Why else would Amazon.com offer an unusual, all-you-can-ship subscription service for $79 a year? People who sign up for an Amazon Prime membership (www.amazon.com/prime) will get a year of free two-day shipping on more than 1 million items sold at Amazon.com. They also can opt for overnight shipping for $3.99 and share their Prime membership with four family members.

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Amazon announced this program Wednesday. Chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos told analysts on a conference call that Prime's goal is to get people who already shop at Amazon to do so more frequently.

It's unlikely to appeal to cheapskates, though, since they can already get free shipping from Amazon on most items by bundling purchases together to meet the minimum order of $25. Of course, Amazon's free shipping typically takes eight to 10 business days.

You might think paying $79 for unlimited express shipping wouldn't appeal to rich folks, either, since they presumably can pay for speedy delivery anytime. But Bezos said he expects Amazon Prime to ease people's guilt over ordering upgrades.

"Even for those who can afford second-day shipping, it feels like a luxury," Bezos said.

Firefox Gains on IE

Microsoft has a fox on its tail -- as in Firefox 1.0, the free, open-source Web browser that has been downloaded more than 20 million times since its Nov. 9 release, according to the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit group spearheading its development.

Roughly 90 percent of all Web surfers still use the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser included with Windows, according to researchers at WebSideStory. But that research firm found that Firefox took about 3 percentage points off IE's market share between November and January.

www.mozilla.org

Sites Click at Colleges

College kids are blessing Web hangouts with the right cool factor, to judge from Web-searching trends. Yahoo reported last week that a yuck-it-up collegiate hangout, College Humor, had broken into its top 500 Internet search terms.

The Facebook is gaining even more buzz: This social-networking site, launched last February, has signed up 1.5 million people at 300 colleges.

www.collegehumor.com

www.thefacebook.com

E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.


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