Increasingly, state lawmakers are clamoring “Yes!” in an attempt to drum up revenues even while Amazon does not maintain a physical place of business within their state’s borders. The battle cry is that Amazon’s affiliate programs constitute a local business interest and should make the e-tailer subject to the Main Street Fairness Act.
As a result, Amazon is being forced to shut down its affiliate relationships in those states. Already, “associates” in North Carolina, Rhode Island and Colorado have been impacted. The state of Illinois has just signed an “Amazon Law” to levy Internet sales taxes, and Amazon says it will have no choice but to react the same way if legislation is passed in California. Amazon currently collects sales tax in New York but is challenging that state’s “Amazon Law” in court.
In Texas, state officials have tried to grab more tax collections because Amazon had an affiliated shipping center in the state. However, Amazon argues that the shipping centers are not really part of the Amazon retailing business, but are sister shipping companies.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in a 1992 case that forcing a company to administer the tax code of thousands of tiny sales districts around the country is an unfair burden. It would amount to a restriction of interstate commerce—an arena reserved for the feds —and therefore rests on a question of constitutionality. Bill Gates has made an impassioned presentation on state budgets at TED on the critical financial shortfall confronting all but four statehouses.
In the wrestling ring, companies like Barnes and Noble and Walmart are seeking to pick off Amazon’s affiliates when they become disenfranchised. Is Amazon’s strategy a good bet in the long run?
Given the current political climate, and the severity of states’ needs to produce revenue wherever possible, Amazon might consider a reverse wrestling hold by taking everyone to the mat and leveling the playing field for all, competing on volume pricing and peerless shipping logistics (plus extra services like Prime shipping with Instant Movies), and retain its affiliate infrastructure. Amazon is the gold standard for online retailing. It competes very effectively. So long as the rules of the game are the same for all, Amazon will win. A protracted battle over Internet taxation might extract too high a cost the company can otherwise afford to manage, and still prevail. [24×7]
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 Debuts, Enhanced Bing Search On Deck
The final version of the Internet Explorer 9 Web browser will be released for public download at 9PM Pacific time at the top of the week. Microsoft’s newest Web browser edition will combine minimalist menu options that open up larger space for web pages and hardware acceleration.
The package will come with a slew of remarkable improvements as compared with the earlier browsers from Microsoft. A Beauty of the Web event will be held at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Texas.
In competitive chorus, Mozilla has also announced the first release candidate of Firefox 4.0 for public download. The final version will be ready in a few days. Google isn’t willing to stay quiet and has released a stable version of Chrome 10.0.648.127. The browser is meant for Windows, Mac, Linux and Chrome Frame.
IE9’s enhancements and additions include the roll-out of Tracking Protection, an opt-in tool disabled by default that relies on published lists to selectively block third-party sites and content embedded in Web sites.
Tracking Protection is Microsoft’s response to growing concern on the part of consumers, privacy advocates and government regulators about online privacy, particularly how advertisers track users’ movements and their purchasing habits.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has said users should be able to block sites and advertising networks from following their movements online.
An HTML 5-fortified version of an enhanced Bing search engine, including Instant Search Results, is rumored to be timed in conjunction with the IE9 release. Check out the new Bing Search Experience Preview video here. [24×7].