Amazon.com (/ˈæməzɒn/ or /ˈæməzən/), also called Amazon, is an American electronic commerce and cloud computing company that was founded on July 5, 1994, by Jeff Bezos and is based in Seattle, Washington. It is the largest Internet-based retailer in the world by total sales and market capitalization. Amazon.com started as an online bookstore, later diversifying to sell DVDs, Blu-rays, CDs, video downloads/streaming, MP3 downloads/streaming, audiobook downloads/streaming, software, video games, electronics, apparel, furniture, food, toys and jewelry. The company also produces consumer electronics—notably, Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV and the Echo—and is the world’s largest provider of cloud infrastructure services (IaaS and PaaS). Amazon also sells certain low-end products like USB cables under its in-house brand AmazonBasics.
Amazon has separate retail websites for the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India and Mexico. Amazon also offers international shipping to certain other countries for some of its products. In 2016, Dutch, Polish and Turkish language versions of the German Amazon website were launched.
In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization, and was in the third quarter of 2016 the fourth most valuable public company.
The company was founded in 1994, spurred by what Amazon founder Jeff Bezos called his “regret minimization framework,” which described his efforts to fend off any regrets for not participating sooner in the Internet business boom during that time. In 1994, Bezos left his employment as vice-president of D. E. Shaw & Co., a Wall Street firm and moved to Seattle. He began to work on a business plan for what would eventually become Amazon.com.
Bezos incorporated the company as “Cadabra” on July 5, 1994. Bezos changed the name to Amazon a year later after a lawyer misheard its original name as “cadaver”. In September 1994, Bezos purchased the URL Relentless.com and briefly considered naming his online store Relentless, but friends told him the name sounded a bit sinister. The domain is still owned by Bezos and still redirects to the retailer. The company went online as Amazon.com in 1995.
Bezos selected the name Amazon by looking through the dictionary and settled on “Amazon” because it was a place that was “exotic and different” just as he envisioned for his Internet enterprise; the Amazon river, he noted was by far the “biggest” river in the world and he planned to make his store the biggest in the world. Bezos placed a premium on his head start in building a brand, telling a reporter, “There’s nothing about our model that can’t be copied over time. But you know, McDonald’s got copied. And it still built a huge, multibillion-dollar company. A lot of it comes down to the brand name. Brand names are more important online than they are in the physical world.” Additionally, a name beginning with “A” was preferential due to the probability it would occur at the top of any list that was alphabetized.
Since June 19, 2000, Amazon’s logotype has featured a curved arrow leading from A to Z, representing that the company carries every product from A to Z, with the arrow shaped like a smile.
After reading a report about the future of the Internet that projected annual Web commerce growth at 2,300%, Bezos created a list of 20 products that could be marketed online. He narrowed the list to what he felt were the five most promising products, which included: compact discs, computer hardware, computer software, videos and books. Bezos finally decided that his new business would sell books online, due to the large worldwide demand for literature, the low price points for books, along with the huge number of titles available in print. Amazon was founded in the garage of Bezos’ home in Bellevue, Washington.
The company began as an online bookstore, an idea spurred off with discussion with John Ingram of Ingram Book (now called Ingram Content Group), along with Keyur Patel who still holds a stake in Amazon. Amazon was able to access books at wholesale from Ingram. In the first two months of business, Amazon sold to all 50 states and over 45 countries. Within two months, Amazon’s sales were up to $20,000/week. While the largest brick and mortar bookstores and mail order catalogs might offer 200,000 titles, an online bookstore could “carry” several times more, since it would have a practically unlimited virtual (not actual) warehouse: those of the actual product makers/suppliers.
Amazon was incorporated in 1994, in the state of Washington. In July 1995, the company began service and sold its first book on Amazon.com: Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. In October 1995, the company announced itself to the public. In 1996, it was reincorporated in Delaware. Amazon issued its initial public offering of stock on May 15, 1997, trading under the NASDAQ stock exchange symbol AMZN, at a price of US$18.00 per share ($1.50 after three stock splits in the late 1990s).
Amazon’s initial business plan was unusual; it did not expect to make a profit for four to five years. This “slow” growth caused stockholders to complain about the company not reaching profitability fast enough to justify investing in, or to even survive in the long-term. When the dot-com bubble burst at the start of the 21st century, destroying many e-companies in the process, Amazon survived and grew on past the bubble burst to become a huge player in online sales. It finally turned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: $5 million (i.e., 1¢ per share), on revenues of more than $1 billion. This profit margin, though extremely modest, proved to skeptics that Bezos’ unconventional business model could succeed. In 1999, Time magazine named Bezos the Person of the Year, recognizing the company’s success in popularizing online shopping.
Barnes & Noble sued Amazon on May 12, 1997, alleging that Amazon’s claim to be “the world’s largest bookstore” was false because it “…isn’t a bookstore at all. It’s a book broker.” The suit was later settled out of court and Amazon continued to make the same claim. Walmart sued Amazon on October 16, 1998, alleging that Amazon had stolen Walmart’s trade secrets by hiring former Walmart executives. Although this suit was also settled out of court, it caused Amazon to implement internal restrictions and the reassignment of the former Walmart executives.
On October 11, 2016, Amazon announced plans to build convenience stores and develop curbside pickup locations for food. In December 2016, the Amazon Go store was opened to Amazon employees in Seattle. The store uses a variety of sensors and automatically charges a shopper’s Amazon account as they walk out of the store, therefore there are no checkout lines. The store is planned to open for the general public in early 2017.
In 2011, Amazon had 30,000 full-time employees in the USA and by the end of 2016, it had 180,000 employees. The company employs 306,800 people worldwide in full and part-time jobs.