Amazon.com isn’t America’s biggest company. By market cap, it trails Apple. Measured by number of employees, it’s behind Walmart. By revenues, it’s a distant eighth on the Fortune 500 list. But measured by importance to modern life and ability to shape the American economy in its own image, Amazon is second to none.
Part of Amazon’s remarkable influence stems from the sheer variety of its business lines and the way it touches our everyday lives. Born in 1994 as a modest online bookseller, Amazon has grown organically and by accretion into an internet giant that plays in nearly every sector, from producing movies to transporting freight.
It has a full suite of electronic devices, including a digital assistant that thousands of consumers rely on to perform daily tasks (Alexa), an electronic reader (Kindle) and a home security system (Ring). Its server business hosts a third of the world’s cloud-based data. After deflating brick-and-mortar retail, it’s become a brick-and-mortar retailer itself with its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, its physical bookstores, and its foray into cashierless convenience stores. Now, it’s trying to become the place where you can find a handyman and fill your prescriptions, maybe even buy home insurance and get a loan.