As Amazon has entered more industries, its size, scale and influence has exploded. From 2014 to 2018, revenue nearly tripled, from an already staggering $89 billion to $233 billion. And its profits have surged even more. Between 2007 and 2014, net income bounced around from a high of $1.15 billion in 2010 to a low point where Amazon lost $241 million in 2014. The company’s profit later skyrocketed to $10.1 billion in 2018; clearly, its investments and diversification have paid off, with no one enjoying the success more than CEO Jeff Bezos. According to Forbes, he is the world’s richest person with a net worth of $159.2 billion, more than $50 billion more than Bill Gates, number two on the list.
With this dominance has come increasing scrutiny into Amazon’s unavoidable, and sometimes destructive, role in the world. Prime deliveries mean more boxes end up in landfills, and that’s only scratching the surface of its ecological impact. Delivery trucks and planes ferrying your goods quickly around the globe means increased emissions, while plenty of power is needed to keep shipping and fulfillment centers running. AWS data centers also take a toll, though the company is being more transparent about its efforts to get that operation carbon-neutral. But AWS only exceeded 50 percent renewable energy usage in 2018, so there’s still a long way to go.
Beyond its environmental impact, Amazon has been under fire for a variety of issues including poor worker conditions, low pay, opposing unions; working with law enforcement on a controversial facial recognition program; and contributing to the general downfall of independent retailers. And with a number of US politicians talking up greater oversight of the country’s massive technology oligarchies, it’s not a stretch to imagine Amazon defending itself against anti-competitive claims and potential privacy before long.
That said, it’s hard to predict what Amazon will look like 25 years, or even five years from now. But when we look back at the companies that have shaped the modern internet, Amazon is right at the top, for better and worse. Indeed, Amazon is a pretty strong metaphor for the best and worst of the internet itself.
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