Amazon Brand Detector

Two months ago, The Markup — a big-tech watchdog site — published a piece about how Amazon prioritizes its own “brands” first above better rated (and/or cheaper) products. This came as no surprise to me.

I’ve found Amazon increasingly useless over the past few years. Its search results are cluttered with ads. Sometimes my searches fail to show products I know the company stocks and sells. And Amazon Prime has lost its luster as shipping times have lengthened and Prime Video has become increasingly superfluous.

So, to learn that Amazon cheats search results by crowding out better and cheaper products in favor of it own stuff was no big shock. Yet another reason for me to take my business elsewhere, when possible. From the article:

We found that knowing only whether a product was an Amazon brand or exclusive could predict in seven out of every 10 cases whether Amazon would place it first in search results. These listings are not visibly marked as “sponsored” and they are part of a grid that Amazon identifies as “search results” in the site’s source code. (We only analyzed products in that grid, ignoring modules that are strictly for advertising.)

Despite its problems, Kim and I still find ourselves ordering from Amazon relatively often. It’d be nice to have some way to sort out some of the crap. Now there is.

Following its October article, The Markup set out to create a browser plugin that helps to identify Amazon brands (and Amazon exclusives) in the site’s search results, making it easier to detect when those search results have been manipulated. Here’s their description of Amazon brand detector:

Few respondents in a 1,000-person national survey we commissioned recognized the best-selling Amazon brands as owned by the company, apart from Amazon Basics.

So we decided to add some transparency for Amazon shoppers. The Markup created a browser extension that identifies these products and makes their affiliation to Amazon clear.

Brand Detector highlights product listings of Amazon brands and exclusive products by placing a box around them in Amazon’s signature orange. This happens live while shoppers browse the website.

If you too are wary of the world’s third-largest company, give this browser extension a whirl. You may find it useful.

(If Amazon Brand Detector interests you, you might also like Fakespot.)

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