Coder's recent entry contains... (06 Mar 2003)

Coder's recent entry contains a link to a really good article on pricing. (similar to that Wal-Mart article I linked to).

He then goes on to talk about how wonderful a database of prices would be so that anyone could instantly compare prices on a given product.

I remember that such a database was going to be one of the great things about the Internet. There was a short story in New Scientist years ago, set in the future where baked beans were the only thing that still had brand loyalty. Everything else was brought from whomever sold at the lowest price. Hyperbole, but you get the idea.

But I would bet that this database won't ever exist. For one, as that article covers, prices are becoming increasingly personalised so there would almost have to be one database per person. Also, companies don't want it.

How many companies offer an XMLRPC/SOAP/etc way to find out the price of anything? Companies don't want a market where their prices are driven into the ground. They want to draw you into their advertising wonderland and certainly don't want RSS type applications searching for the lowest prices. We have all seen the unparsable mess they create when they are trying to make a good website. Just think what they could manage if they were trying to obscure the prices. When they are distorted images (designed to be hard to OCR, Turing Test like) it just won't be worth the effort.

My Dilbert books are in Cheltenham, but I think it's in the Dilbert Future where Scott Adams talks about confusopolies. He was spot on.