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In the course of a single generation, Amazon has grown from fledgling online bookseller to one of the most valuable and powerful corporations in modern history. The empire of CEO Jeff Bezos has grown so vast that critics, overseas regulators, and Washington politicians are all now wondering whether the company has become an unstoppable force, and what, if anything, is capable of reining in its reach. A recent spat with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) resulted in a minimum wage hike for tens of thousands of employees, but Amazon still operates largely without any meaningful checks on its power even as it aggressively expands into physical retail, the smart home, and warehouse and aviation robotics.
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The domain amazon.com attracted at least 615 million visitors annually by 2008. Amazon attracts over 130 million customers to its US website per month by the start of 2016. The company has also invested heavily on a massive amount of server capacity for its website, especially to handle the excessive traffic during the December Christmas holiday season.
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Amazon is known today not just as the everything store, but as the creator of Alexa, one of the most pervasive digital voice assistants on the market today. As an extension of Alexa, Amazon has become more than just a seller of other people’s products. It’s now a hardware maker (Fire Phone aside), having embarked on its boldest product play since the original Kindle when it decided to develop its own line of smart speakers to house its artificial intelligence software. Once again, the division responsible for this piece of hardware was Lab126, Amazon’s hardware arm that gave it the tools to dominate the e-reader market nearly a decade prior.
With Prime Pantry, which also launched in 2014, Amazon honed its focus on competing with the Walmarts and pharmacies of the world by giving Prime subscribers an easy way to fill one giant box with household supplies and other nonperishable goods. In 2015, Amazon launched a home services arm for everything from house cleanings and oil changes to furniture assembly and theater installation.
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.
On July 5, 1994, Bezos initially incorporated the company in Washington State with the name Cadabra, Inc. He later changed the name to Amazon.com, Inc. a few months 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.
Now when you shop with Amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will help support the work of the American Institute for Cancer Research. Through AmazonSmile, a website operated by Amazon, you can enjoy the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as on Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to AICR.
Amazon has attracted widespread criticism for poor working conditions by both current employees, who refer to themselves as Amazonians, and former employees, as well as the media and politicians. In 2011, it was publicized that at the Breinigsville, Pennsylvania warehouse, workers had to carry out work in 100 °F (38 °C) heat, resulting in employees becoming extremely uncomfortable and suffering from dehydration and collapse. Loading-bay doors were not opened to allow in fresh air, due to the company's concerns over theft. Amazon's initial response was to pay for an ambulance to sit outside on call to cart away overheated employees. The company eventually installed air conditioning at the warehouse.
According to an August 8, 2018 story in Bloomberg Businessweek, Amazon has about a 5 percent share of U.S. retail spending (excluding cars and car parts and visits to restaurants and bars), and a 43.5 share of American online spending in 2018. The forecast is for Amazon to own 49 percent of the total American online spending in 2018, with two-thirds of Amazon's revenue coming from the U.S.