Amazon.com, Inc. (/ˈæməzɒn/ AM-ə-zon) is an American multinational technology company based in Seattle, Washington, which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. It is one of the Big Five companies in the U.S. information technology industry, along with Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook. The company has been referred to as “one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world”, as well as the world’s most valuable brand.
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon from his garage in Bellevue, Washington, on July 5, 1994. It started as an online marketplace for books but expanded to sell electronics, software, video games, apparel, furniture, food, toys, and jewelry. In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization. In 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market for US$13.4 billion, which substantially increased its footprint as a physical retailer. In 2018, its two-day delivery service, Amazon Prime, surpassed 100 million subscribers worldwide.
Amazon is known for its disruption of well-established industries through technological innovation and mass scale. It is the world’s largest online marketplace, AI assistant provider, live-streaming platform and cloud computing platform as measured by revenue and market capitalization. Amazon is the largest Internet company by revenue in the world. It is the second largest private employer in the United States and one of the world’s most valuable companies. As of 2020, Amazon has the highest global brand valuation.
Amazon distributes downloads and streaming of video, music, and audiobooks through its Prime Video, Amazon Music, Twitch, and Audible subsidiaries. Amazon also has a publishing arm, Amazon Publishing, a film and television studio, Amazon Studios, and a cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services. It produces consumer electronics including Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo devices. Its acquisitions over the years include Ring, Twitch, Whole Foods Market, and IMDb.
Amazon has been criticized for practices including technological surveillance overreach, a hyper-competitive and demanding work culture, tax avoidance, and anti-competitive behavior.
|Formerly||Cadabra, Inc. (1994–95)|
|Founded||July 5, 1994
Bellevue, Washington, U.S.
|Revenue||US$386.064 billion (2020)|
|US$22.9 billion (2020)|
|US$21.331 billion (2020)|
|Total assets||US$321.2 billion (2020)|
|Total equity||US$93.404 billion (2020)|
Number of employees
| 1,298,000 (Dec. 2020)
U.S.: 810,000 (Oct. 2020)
Jeff Bezos founded Amazon in July 1994. He chose Seattle because of technical talent as Microsoft is located there. In May 1997, Amazon went public. It began selling music and videos in 1998, at which time it began operations internationally by acquiring online sellers of books in United Kingdom and Germany. The following year, Amazon began selling items including video games, consumer electronics, home improvement items, software, games, and toys.
In 2002, Amazon launched Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provided data on website popularity, Internet traffic patterns and other statistics for marketers and developers. In 2006, Amazon grew its AWS portfolio when Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which rents computer processing power as well as Simple Storage Service (S3), that rents data storage via the Internet, were made available. That same year, Amazon started Fulfillment by Amazon which managed the inventory of individuals and small companies selling their belongings through the company internet site. In 2012, Amazon bought Kiva Systems to automate its inventory-management business, purchasing Whole Foods Market supermarket chain five years later in 2017.
In January 2021, Amazon invested with over $278 million by opening two new centers in Italy (Novara and Modena) and creating over 1100 jobs.
On February 2, 2021, Amazon announced that Jeff Bezos would be stepping down as CEO and transition to Executive Chair of Amazon’s board in Q3 of 2021. Andy Jassy, who is currently CEO of AWS, will succeed Bezos as CEO of the company.
Board of directors
As of September 2020, the board of directors is:
- Jeff Bezos, President, CEO, and Chairman
- Keith B. Alexander, CEO, IronNet Cybersecurity, former NSA Director
- Rosalind Brewer, Group President, and COO, Starbucks
- Jamie Gorelick, partner, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale, and Dorr
- Daniel P. Huttenlocher, Dean of the Schwarzman College of Computing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Judy McGrath, former CEO, MTV Networks
- Indra Nooyi, former CEO, PepsiCo
- Jon Rubinstein, former Chairman, and former CEO, Palm, Inc.
- Thomas O. Ryder, former Chairman, and former CEO, Reader’s Digest Association
- Patty Stonesifer, President, and CEO, Martha’s Table
- Wendell P. Weeks, Chairman, President, and CEO, Corning Inc.
In 2000, U.S. toy retailer Toys “R” Us entered into a 10-year agreement with Amazon, valued at $50 million per year plus a cut of sales, under which Toys “R” Us would be the exclusive supplier of toys and baby products on the service, and the chain’s website would redirect to Amazon’s Toys & Games category. In 2004, Toys “R” Us sued Amazon, claiming that because of a perceived lack of variety in Toys “R” Us stock, Amazon had knowingly allowed third-party sellers to offer items on the service in categories that Toys “R” Us had been granted exclusivity. In 2006, a court ruled in favor of Toys “R” Us, giving it the right to unwind its agreement with Amazon and establish its own independent e-commerce website. The company was later awarded $51 million in damages.
In 2001, Amazon entered into a similar agreement with Borders Group, under which Amazon would comanage Borders.com as a co-branded service. Borders pulled out of the arrangement in 2007, with plans to also launch its own online store.
On October 18, 2011, Amazon.com announced a partnership with DC Comics for the exclusive digital rights to many popular comics, including Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Sandman, and Watchmen. The partnership has caused well-known bookstores like Barnes & Noble to remove these titles from their shelves.
In November 2013, Amazon announced a partnership with the United States Postal Service to begin delivering orders on Sundays. The service, included in Amazon’s standard shipping rates, initiated in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and New York because of the high-volume and inability to deliver in a timely way, with plans to expand into Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix by 2014.
In November 2018, Amazon reached an agreement with Apple Inc. to sell selected products through the service, via the company and selected Apple Authorized Resellers. As a result of this partnership, only Apple Authorized Resellers may sell Apple products on Amazon effective January 4, 2019.
Amazon uses many different transportation services to deliver packages. Amazon-branded services include:
- Amazon Air, a cargo airline for bulk transport, with last mile delivery handled either by Amazon Flex, Amazon Logistics, or the United States Postal Service.
- Amazon Flex, a smartphone app that enables individuals to act as independent contractors, delivering packages to customers from personal vehicles without uniforms. Deliveries include one or two hour Prime Now, same or next day Amazon Fresh groceries, and standard Amazon.com orders, in addition to orders from local stores that contract with Amazon.
- Amazon Logistics, in which Amazon contracts with small businesses (which it calls “Delivery Service Partners”) to perform deliveries to customers. Each business has a fleet of approximately 20-40 Amazon-branded vans, and employees of the contractors wear Amazon uniforms. As of December 2020, it operates in the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
- Amazon Prime Air is an experimental drone delivery service.
Amazon directly employs people to work at its warehouses, bulk distribution centers, staffed “Amazon Hub Locker+” locations, and delivery stations where drivers pick up packages. As of December 2020, it is not hiring delivery drivers as employees.
Rakuten Intelligence estimated that in 2020 in the United States, the proportion of last-mile deliveries was 56% by Amazon’s directly contracted services (mostly in urban areas), 30% by the United States Postal Service (mostly in rural areas), and 14% by UPS.
Products and services
Amazon.com’s product lines available at its website include several media (books, DVDs, music CDs, videotapes and software), apparel, baby products, consumer electronics, beauty products, gourmet food, groceries, health and personal-care items, industrial & scientific supplies, kitchen items, jewelry, watches, lawn and garden items, musical instruments, sporting goods, tools, automotive items and toys & games. In August 2019, Amazon applied to have a liquor store in San Francisco, CA as a means to ship beer and alcohol within the city. Amazon has separate retail websites for some countries and also offers international shipping of some of its products to certain other countries. In November 2020, the company started an online delivery service dedicated to prescription drugs. The service provides discounts up to 80% for generic drugs and up to 40% for branded drugs for Prime subscribe users. The products can be purchased on the company’s website or at over 50,000 bricks-and-mortar pharmacies in the United States.
Amazon.com has a number of products and services available, including:
Amazon Maritime, Inc. holds a Federal Maritime Commission license to operate as a non-vessel-owning common carrier (NVOCC), which enables the company to manage its own shipments from China into the United States.
Audible.com is a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and television programs and audio versions of magazines and newspapers. Through its production arm, Audible Studios, Audible has also become the world’s largest producer of downloadable audiobooks. On January 31, 2008, Amazon announced it would buy Audible for about $300 million. The deal closed in March 2008 and Audible became a subsidiary of Amazon.
Beijing Century Joyo Courier Services
Beijing Century Joyo Courier Services is a subsidiary of Amazon and it applied for a freight forwarding license with the US Maritime Commission. Amazon is also building out its logistics in trucking and air freight to potentially compete with UPS and FedEx.
Brilliance Audio is an audiobook publisher founded in 1984 by Michael Snodgrass in Grand Haven, Michigan. The company produced its first 8 audio titles in 1985. The company was purchased by Amazon in 2007 for an undisclosed amount. At the time of the acquisition, Brilliance was producing 12–15 new titles a month. It operates as an independent company within Amazon.
In 1984, Brilliance Audio invented a technique for recording twice as much on the same cassette. The technique involved recording on each of the two channels of each stereo track. It has been credited with revolutionizing the burgeoning audiobook market in the mid-1980s since it made unabridged books affordable.
ComiXology is a cloud-based digital comics platform with over 200 million comic downloads as of September 2013. It offers a selection of more than 40,000 comic books and graphic novels across Android, iOS, Fire OS and Windows 8 devices and over a web browser. Amazon bought the company in April 2014.
Goodreads is a “social cataloging” website founded in December 2006 and launched in January 2007 by Otis Chandler, a software engineer, and entrepreneur, and Elizabeth Khuri. The website allows individuals to freely search Goodreads’ extensive user-populated database of books, annotations, and reviews. Users can sign up and register books to generate library catalogs and reading lists. They can also create their own groups of book suggestions and discussions. In December 2007, the site had over 650,000 members and over 10 million books had been added. Amazon bought the company in March 2013.
In October 2019, Amazon finalized the acquisition of Health Navigator, a startup developing APIs for online health services. The startup will form part of Amazon Care, which is the company’s employee healthcare service. This follows the 2018 purchase of PillPack for under $1 billion, which has also been included into Amazon Care.
Junglee is a former online shopping service provided by Amazon that enabled customers to search for products from online and offline retailers in India. Junglee started off as a virtual database that was used to extract information from the Internet and deliver it to enterprise applications. As it progressed, Junglee started to use its database technology to create a single window marketplace on the Internet by making every item from every supplier available for purchase. Web shoppers could locate, compare and transact millions of products from across the Internet shopping mall through one window.
Amazon acquired Junglee in 1998, and the website Junglee.com was launched in India in February 2012 as a comparison-shopping website. It curated and enabled searching for a diverse variety of products such as clothing, electronics, toys, jewelry and video games, among others, across thousands of online and offline sellers. Millions of products are browsable, the client selects a price, and then they are directed to a seller. In November 2017, Amazon closed down Junglee.com and the former domain currently redirects to Amazon India.
Kuiper Systems LLC, is a subsidiary of Amazon, set up to deploy a broadband satellite internet constellation with an announced 3,236 Low Earth orbit satellites to provide satellite based Internet connectivity.
Ring is a home automation company founded by Jamie Siminoff in 2013. It is primarily known for its WiFi powered smart doorbells, but manufactures other devices such as security cameras. Amazon bought Ring for US$1 billion in 2018.
Shelfari was a social cataloging website for books. Shelfari users built virtual bookshelves of the titles which they owned or had read and they could rate, review, tag and discuss their books. Users could also create groups that other members could join, create discussions and talk about books, or other topics. Recommendations could be sent to friends on the site for what books to read. Amazon bought the company in August 2008. Shelfari continued to function as an independent book social network within the Amazon until January 2016, when Amazon announced that it would be merging Shelfari with Goodreads and closing down Shelfari.
Twitch is a live streaming platform for video, primarily oriented towards video gaming content. The service was first established as a spin-off of a general-interest streaming service known as Justin.tv. Its prominence was eclipsed by that of Twitch, and Justin.tv was eventually shut down by its parent company in August 2014 in order to focus exclusively on Twitch. Later that month, Twitch was acquired by Amazon for $970 million. Through Twitch, Amazon also owns Curse, Inc., an operator of video gaming communities and a provider of VoIP services for gaming. Since the acquisition, Twitch began to sell games directly through the platform, and began offering special features for Amazon Prime subscribers.
The site’s rapid growth had been boosted primarily by the prominence of major esports competitions on the service, leading GameSpot senior esports editor Rod Breslau to have described the service as “the ESPN of esports”. As of 2015, the service had over 1.5 million broadcasters and 100 million monthly viewers.
On August 10, 2020, Amazon announced the rebranding of Twitch Prime, the live-streaming site, renaming it Prime Gaming Prime Gaming in another attempt to crack the video game market after failing a big-budget game effort. With Twitch Prime, users will be given a free subscription to Twitch, with free games from small studios and discounts for larger titles like Grand Theft Auto and League of Legends.
On November 2, 2020, Twitch announced a virtual flagship conference and named it GlitchCon instead of TwitchCon to be held on November 14. The main aim of the conference will be to bring its numerous, disparate communities of streamers and fans together where they can be real life confidants.
Whole Foods Market
On August 23, 2017, it was reported that the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger between Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market. The following day it was announced that the deal would be closed on August 28, 2017.