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The Amazon shopping site was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos. He said he was encouraged to start the business to “minimize regret” he would have had for not having taken advantage of the early Internet gold rush. Amazon was originally an online bookstore. While the largest physical bookstores and mail order catalogs could carry up to 200,000 titles, an online bookstore could display a much larger catalog. Bezos wanted his company name to start with an A to appear at the top of an alphabetical ranking. He started looking in the dictionary and stopped at Amazon (Amazon) because it was an “exotic and different” place and the river was considered the largest in the world, a destiny he wished for his. business. Since 2000, the Amazon logo has featured an arrow going from A to Z forming a smile that symbolizes customer satisfaction and also indicates that the company can sell everything from A to Z.

Amazon opened its service on July 16, 1995. The first book sold was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies (en) by Douglas Hofstadter. Amazon went public on May 15, 1997. The stock is listed under the name “AMZN” on the NASDAQ and has a starting price of $ 18.

The company didn’t expect to turn a profit for four or five years. Its “slow” growth angered shareholders complaining that the company is not making a profit fast enough. When the dot-com bubble burst and many internet companies went bankrupt, Amazon held on and finally made its first profit in the last quarter of 2001: $ 5 million, or 1 cent per share, on turnover of over a billion. The profit, although small, served to prove that the business model could be profitable14. In 1999, Time magazine named Bezos “Personality of the Year”, noting that his company helped popularize electronic commerce.

On May 12, 1997, Barnes & Noble sued Amazon, ruling that its claim to be “the world’s largest bookstore” was false, because “is not a bookstore at all. He is a book dealer ”. The case was finally settled out of court. Amazon, however, continued to describe itself as “the world’s largest bookstore” . On October 16, 1998, Walmart also commenced legal proceedings, accusing Amazon of stealing trade secrets by hiring former Walmart executives. This case was also settled amicably.

In the late 1990s, Amazon, along with its compatriots AOL, was part of Yahoo! and eBay, companies that have become famous thanks to a bubble of market capitalizations of young companies unparalleled in history, which ended in crash, a phenomenon also affecting many small biotech companies and junior mining companies.

In 2011, Amazon set up a Cloud service reserved for United States Government administrations, called GovCloud.

On June 18, 2014, Amazon entered the smartphone market by marketing the Fire Phone. It was a commercial failure, and the marketing of the device ceased in September 2015.

Amazon founder and current CEO Jeff Bezos announced on July 28, 2014 that the company is embarking on 3D printing. This expanding sector has great potential for Amazon’s future, according to the CEO. The company currently has a choice of over 200 printable objects and the ability to offer a variety of materials. It also offers customers the choice of object size and color.

One of the big issues for Amazon concerns the conditions and costs of delivery of its products. The goal is to optimize the time between the customer’s order on the platform and the delivery of the purchased item.

Thus, in December 2013, Jeff Bezos presented to the public a “Prime Air” drone delivery system, a “very ecological” system according to him. However, the realization of this project may take some time, as the legal, technical and security obstacles are significant24. However, the group announced that it was planning to test its service this year in India.

In November 2014, the group began full-scale drone delivery trials at its Cambridge research center in the United Kingdom. Two positions for aeronautical engineers able to pilot drones have also been opened. In February 2015, in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration rejected the “Prime Air Drone” project, prohibiting the flight of drones out of the sight of their pilot. The drones were planned with a range of 80 kilometers and had to be able to deliver packages weighing up to 20 kilos.

In addition, the group is currently testing a new taxi delivery service in California with the Flywheel taxi ordering application. The principle is simple: Amazon orders a taxi that delivers 10 products per hour. The aim of this maneuver is to limit delivery costs, demonstrate greater flexibility, deliver quickly and get ahead of competitors in the “quest” for same-day delivery.

In its search for new customers, Amazon has signed several partnerships since 2014 with various universities: Purdue University, University of Massachusetts Amherst and University of California Davis. The site has set up online shops for students to enable them to acquire their textbooks. In addition, lockers have been installed on university campuses to allow students to collect their order without delivery costs.

On October 9, 2015, Amazon opened an online sales platform for handicrafts, “Handmade at Amazon”. The goal is to compete directly with Etsy.

In December 2015, when the song of the anti-immigration movement PEGIDA was among the most downloaded music on the platform, Amazon Germany announced that it wanted to donate the profits of this song to refugees. PEGIDA, for its part, had declared that the profits it would derive from the song would be used to help the homeless in Germany.

In April 2016, the official Amazon blog announced the appointment of two new CEOs alongside Jeff Bezos, Jeff Wilke and Andy Jassy, ​​to the respective positions of CEO Worldwide Consumer and CEO Amazon Web Services.

On September 28, 2016, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon formalized, in a joint press release, the creation of the “Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society” (“Partnership for artificial intelligence for the benefit of citizens and society “). This partnership will take the form of a non-profit organization that “will conduct research, recommend best practices and publish the results of its research under an open license” .

On December 14, 2016, Amazon announced the expansion of Prime Video, its online video service, to 200 countries. With this service, Amazon intends to compete with Netflix on a global scale.

In July 2017, Amazon reached a historic capitalization of 510 billion dollars and thus joined companies whose stock market value exceeded 500 billion dollars, such as Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft.

In November 2017, Amazon’s market capitalization, during Black Friday, recorded $ 586 billion.

In November 2018, Amazon announced the construction of a second headquarters divided between the metropolitan areas of New York and Washington, bringing together 25,000 jobs and an investment of $ 2.5 billion; a third headquarters, of a much smaller size, will also be built in Nashville.

In 2018, Amazon is the most expensive of the world’s major corporations, with $ 840 billion in market capitalization. The company has more than 500,000 employees.

In 2018, Amazon benefited from 241 million euros in tax credits in Europe.

In 2019, thousands of Amazon employees signed a letter asking their management to better take into account the issue of global warming and take action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. However, shareholders reject the proposal at a board meeting.

Strikes took place in Amazon warehouses in the United States and Germany in July 2019 against the daily “stress” and “hell” of promotions.

In November 2019, Nike announced that it was ceasing the direct sale of its products on Amazon’s e-commerce platform, mainly because of counterfeits.

At the end of September 2020, Amazon announces the release of a surveillance drone for the home. A flying camera that will be marketed next year.

Acquisitions and equity investments

In 2017, Amazon acquired, for an undisclosed amount, Souq, an Internet distribution company present in the Middle East, a region where Amazon has had little presence until then. In the same year, Amazon announced the acquisition of a 23% stake in Plug Power, an American manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cells.

On June 16, 2017, Amazon announced the purchase of Whole Foods Market for $ 13.7 billion and entered full force in food distribution, especially fresh products, by acquiring more than 460 stores.

On February 27, 2018, Amazon formalizes for a billion dollars the acquisition of Ring, an American start-up manufacturing doorbells and connected surveillance cameras. A range of products that Amazon intends to use to deliver its customers’ purchases inside their homes and thus prevent theft87,88. In June 2018, Amazon announced the acquisition of Pillpack, an online pharmaceutical sales company, for an undisclosed amount.

In June 2020, Amazon announced the acquisition of Zoox, which specializes in autonomous vehicles, for $ 1 billion.

For a long time, lost money with every book sold because of its large investments to expand, especially because the company had to build its own database from scratch, ensuring full bibliographic description. and the digitization of each document offered for sale. In July 2005, Amazon launched its French electronics section, selling items such as LCD TVs.

In 2006, Amazon diversified and launched a range of Web IT infrastructure services called Amazon Web Services (AWS) based on a so-called cloud computing platform. AWS offers a set of products such as the Online Storage Service with Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud On-Demand Server Cluster (Amazon EC2), the Amazon Flexible Payments Service (in ) (FPS), etc. etc.

Kindle e-reader

In November 2007, Amazon released its own digital book reader, called Kindle. Kindle is also available as an application for personal computer, iPhone or Android phones, which makes it possible to read e-books that have been licensed to read on different platforms (the digital files remaining the property of Amazon, who can remove them from the consumer e-reader at any time).

Amazon MarketPlace Platform

Since November 7, 2003, Amazon has also offered private individuals, as well as specialized sellers, the possibility of selling their own items, provided that they are listed in the Amazon catalog, via the “MarketPlace” platform. For France, Amazon levies a commission on the sale price, management fees, as well as a fixed commission per item, and also levies, in accordance with the law, a value added tax. In February 2013, Amazon announced the unilateral 50% increase in commissions levied on the sale of cultural items. Thus, for example, on each book sold, since April 4, an affiliate seller sees management fees subtracted from € 0.45 (against € 0.30 previously) to € 3.99 + 15% of the total (against 10.44% previously). To this total is also added a flat rate of 1.14 € corresponding to the monthly subscription to the service. Since January 1, 2015, it is the VAT rate of the country of establishment which applies to finalized transactions, further increasing the cost of the service.


In March 2016, Amazon signed an agreement with the American aircraft rental company ATSG for the rental of twenty Boeing 767 cargo planes over a period of five to seven years. The aim is to reduce its dependence on logistics companies FedEx and UPS138.

Amazon announced on July 25, 2016, an agreement with the British government to set up a small packet delivery project by drones. The three main authorizations obtained are to fly drones that are no longer within sight of their operator in rural and suburban areas, to have several automated drones operate by one person and to test the performance of sensors supposed to enable the devices. identify and avoid obstacles. If the project works, the packages can be delivered in thirty minutes anywhere in the world.

In December 2016, Amazon filed a patent for setting up flying warehouses suspended by zeppelins to support drone delivery.

Amazon Go

The first Amazon Go store in Seattle.
In December 2016, Amazon opened its first cashless food supermarket, Amazon Go. Located in Seattle, near the company’s headquarters, it remained in the test phase for nearly a year, reserved for Amazon employees141. In January 2018, the store was opened to the general publi.

As of July 2019, there are 13 Amazon Go stores in the United States: four in Seattle and Chicago, three in San Francisco and two in New York.

In July 2020, Amazon unveils its new cart concept, “Dash Cart”, intended for Amazon Go stores and which automatically scans the items with which it is full and avoids going through the checkout.

Amazon Textiles

Amazon is present in textiles with its brands Goodthreads and Paris Sunday.

Amazon Key

Amazon has launched a service that allows you to unlock your door remotely and watch whoever enters your home live. The device was marketed as Amazon Key, now  Available in 37 US cities. The company also has other ambitions in the field of the new connected home market, directly competing with Google and its connected systems Nest Hello. In March 2018, Amazon bought Ring, a start-up specializing in connected doorbells equipped with cameras to accelerate the development of these new object.

The Amazon Key system has been the subject of concern since cybersecurity research has shown its non-infallibility.


Greenpeace cites Amazon as one of the least environmentally friendly large companies in 2017. The NGO criticizes it for making no effort to reduce its environmental impact and for not revealing any statistics on the recycling of its products or on its share of renewable energy205.

Amazon’s web hosting services (AWS) would have emitted, in 2018, as many greenhouse gases as Portugal and, in 2019, its online sales site, as much CO2 as Bolivia, i.e. respectively 55, 8 and 18.87 million tonnes206.207. In September of the same year, Jeff Bezos announced that his company was committed to achieving the objectives of the Paris climate agreement ten years in advance.

Denouncing the opening of three giant warehouses in France, activists of Non-violent Action COP21, Friends of the Earth and members of the Yellow Vests blocked the headquarters of Amazon France and two other buildings in Lille and Toulouse, the July 2, 2019208. They denounce the overproduction generated by Amazon and wish to prevent the establishment of these new warehouses because of their environmental but also social impacts, in particular on local employment209. They accuse the entity of promoting overconsumption and abusing air transport210 because of its fleet of fifty cargo planes, the number of which should be increased to seventy in 2021207.

Massive destruction of unsold products

In 2018, Amazon would have destroyed 3.2 million new products in France, according to estimates from CGT elected officials. The cause of this “massive destruction” would be the storage policy which, for sellers, boils down to an alternative: recovering unsold merchandise or destroying it. However, the costs of repatriating the goods dissuade sellers from doing so, preferring for a low cost to have them destroyed by Amazon.

A report by journalist Guillaume Cahour on this subject was broadcast in January 2019 on the program Capital. The journalist got hired from an Amazon France site. The report cites the example of Chalon-sur-Saône where more than 293,000 products were discarded, new or almost, in the space of nine months213.

Amazon Prime

The validation of a free “express delivery” hides an implied commitment to the Amazon Prime program, for a trial period of 30 days. A service that pays well, and which turns into an annual prescription of 49 euros.

In September 2019, Amazon launched a version of Amazon Prime for students called Amazon Prime Student with a 90-day trial which, if not terminated, turns into an annual prescription of 24 euros.