Amazon.com is an American company based in Seattle, Washington. It was one of the first major companies to sell goods over the Internet. Amazon owns Alexa Internet.
Founded as Cadabra.com by Jeff Bezos in 1994, the mainstream Internet's early days, the company began as an online bookstore. Bezos saw the potential of the Internet; while the largest brick-and-mortar bookstore might sell upwards of 200,000 titles, an online bookstore could sell many times more. Bezos renamed his company Amazon in deference to the world's most voluminous river, the Amazon. His bookstore quickly began expanding, branching off into retail sales of music CDs, videos and DVDs, software, consumer electronics, kitchen items, tools, apparel, and more. Amazon assigns a unique identifier to all items it sells, the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). For books, the ASIN is the same as the item's ISBN.
Amazon's initial business plan was unique, in that the company did not expect to turn a profit for a good four to five years after it was founded. This strategy proved to be a sound one in the wake of the dotcom collapse of 2000. Amazon grew at a steady pace in the late 1990s while other Internet companies appeared out of nowhere and grew at a blindingly fast pace. Amazon's "slow" growth caused a number of its stockholders to complain, saying that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough. When the Internet "bubble" burst and many e-companies began going out of business, Amazon perservered and finally turned its first-ever profit in the fourth quarter of 2002. It totaled a meager $5 million, just 1 cent per share, on revenues of over $1 billion, but it was extremely important symbolically for a company that kept promising profitability but wasn't delivering. It has since remained profitable and maintained revenues of over $1 billion per fiscal quarter.
Amazon bought the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) in April 1998, a move that upset a number of long-time users of the database; the transformation of IMDb from a public-domain, nonprofit site to a commercial venture was seen as a slap in the face to many Internet users. However, the IMDb has continued to grow and prosper.
The company has been controversial for its use of patents as an alleged hindrance to competitors. The "one click patent" is perhaps the best-known example of this. On February 25, 2003, the company was granted a patent titled "Method and system for conducting a discussion relating to an item" on Internet discussion boards.
Amazon.com operates retail websites not only in the United States (amazon.com), but in Canada (amazon.ca), the United Kingdom (amazon.co.uk), Germany (amazon.de), France (amazon.fr), and Japan (amazon.co.jp). In addition, the websites of Borders.com, Waldenbooks.com, Virginmega.com, Virginmega.co.jp, Waterstones.co.uk, CDNOW.com, and HMV.com now redirect to Amazon's site for the country in question, for which these companies are paid referral fees. Typing ToysRUs.com into one's browser will similarly bring up Amazon.com's Toys & Games tab.
Amazon.com also operates the retail websites of Target, Marshall Field's, and Mervyn's, and provides the technology behind AOL Shopping and the online NBA store.
Amazon offers access to its catalog via web services, much as Google does to its search engine. Google also provides search services directly on Amazon's US site.
In 2002, Amazon became the exclusive retailer for the much-hyped Segway Human Transporter. Bezos was an early supporter of the Segway before its details were made public.