Amazon on Wednesday rolled out new features to its Mechanical Turk web service designed to expand its appeal to a broader set of businesses. Mechanical Turk is a work marketplace that can be used to outsource software development.
The company said its latest Web interface guides business through designing so called "human intelligence tasks," which is really just a shout out that you need some work done. The new Web tools also allow businesses to track work, get deliverables and monitor activity.
Amazon is also rolling out a Web-based tool to deliver sample templates and cover the most common uses--tagging, data collection, filtering and categorization to name a few--on Mechanical Turk.
Here's a look at the template jump off screen (you need to log-in with your Amazon account to get there):
After clicking around a bit Mechanical Turk didn't appear all that intimidating to the average bear (that would be me). The problem is that I haven't played with Mechanical Turk much in the past so I'm lacking a good comparison. In addition, if any of you out there have used Mechanical Turk to get something done let me know. I'd be curious to hear about your experience.
Overall, it's fairly obvious that Amazon wants to move Mechanical Turk beyond the geek chic crowd. Amazon also added bulk uploading and spreadsheet compatibility to Mechanical Turk. That latter feature will likely to be more business friendly. If I were to guess here's what hampered Mechanical Turk's appeal before: Businesses were interested, but needed a software developer to get anything done. The problem: The developer time wasn't available. Amazon is attempting to make it so the average business user can put out a request for work without a developer in the middle.
Separately, Amazon rolled out two payment services dubbed Checkout by Amazon and Simple Pay. Both services are designed to take on PayPal and Google Checkout. The transaction processing field is crowded, but with Amazon's merchant army and brand I wouldn't be surprised if it got a decent bit of traction. It's premature to whip up one of those "Amazon as PayPal killer" posts though. More on the payment systems move on Techmeme and if you're a merchant you can get the full overview at Amazon's site.