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.
Amazon's state sales tax collection policy has changed over the years since it did not collect any sales taxes in its early years. In the U.S., state and local sales taxes are levied by state and local governments, not at the federal level. In most countries where Amazon operates, a sales tax or value added tax is uniform throughout the country, and Amazon is obliged to collect it from all customers. Proponents of forcing Amazon.com to collect sales tax—at least in states where it maintains a physical presence—argue the corporation wields an anti-competitive advantage over storefront businesses forced to collect sales tax.
Amazon, seeing the obvious opportunity here, reportedly outbid none other than Google to become Twitch’s parent company three years later, with the AWS infrastructure a big part of why Twitch CEO Emmett Shear decided to take the deal. Now, four years later, Twitch has outlasted both YouTube and Facebook’s attempts to snatch away its market share and, given the popularity of titles like Epic Games’ Fortnite, has become an even more integral fixture of modern online life and youth culture. Amazon has more recently integrated Twitch into its Prime subscription, giving subscribers free games and complementary channel subscriptions.
Amazon was never going to be able to compete with Google’s YouTube in user-uploaded video content, and it didn’t have the social infrastructure of Facebook to become a destination where people discuss their lives and share videos from around the web. But what Amazon did have was the resources to purchase a company that was poised to outrun both Facebook and YouTube to a new type of business: live-streaming, in particular video games live-streaming. The pioneer of that market was Twitch, which Amazon purchased in 2014 for just shy of $1 billion.
In late 2016, the company launched its first experimental Go store, which replaces cashiers with a computer vision system that automatically detects when you take products off the shelf and checks you out as you leave the store. Go now has two locations in Chicago, three in Seattle, and one that just opened in San Francisco today, with more planned in California and New York City over the course of the next year. Bloomberg reported in September that Amazon may open as many as 3,000 Go locations by 2021, with the goal of competing with stores like CVS and 7-Eleven, as well as fast casual and made-to-go meal establishments. The company is also now experimenting with brick-and-mortar stores that sell only four-star rated products from Amazon.com, starting with a location in New York City.
On the logistics side, Amazon has for years been building out a network of delivery workers, fulfillment centers, trucks, cargo planes, and freighters to move products from manufacturers to customers at speeds once thought impossible. The company is now facilitating sea freight shipments, leasing Boeing cargo planes, building a $1.5 billion air cargo hub in Kentucky, and expanding its own UPS and FedEx competitor called Shipping with Amazon, or SWA. All of this is an effort to establish a global logistics network that no one company will be able to compete with.
Many items on Amazon come from third-party sellers on the Marketplace, indicated by a "Sold by" line near the "Add to Cart" button. If both Amazon and third-party sellers offer the item, the large "Add to Cart" button buys from Amazon, and you'll see a few alternative "Add to Cart" buttons with different prices and a link to a full list of used and new versions of the product. Marketplace sellers set their own prices, so you might find a great discount on a used item, or come across a rare, discontinued product that's only for sale at a collector's price. Even when buying from another seller, Amazon itself handles your payment, so you don't need to worry about your credit card information leaking out.
Amazon's home page provides three methods to start finding and buying items. The front page itself shows off featured items, and once the site starts learning your tastes, it will display products based on your history. To find a specific item, type in the search bar at the top of the page. Press "Enter" to search the entire catalog, or select from the drop-down menu set automatically to "All" to search a specific category, which also enables the "Refine" capability for more specific results. If you'd rather just window shop, click "Shop by Department," to pick a section to browse.