Amazon Is Becoming More Powerful Than You Realize
Retail and Alexa are just the start of the path toward total domination
Amazon trades on convenience: Prime shipping means avoiding lines at the store; your Echo tells you in seconds how many cups are in 3.5 quarts. The company has combined retail and technology in an irresistible package, weaving its services throughout millions of lives. The efforts have turned Amazon into the most valuable public company in the world and one of the most powerful.
Some experts warn that our reliance on Amazon is blinding us to the darker aspects of the company’s ambition. Unless we seriously rethink our understanding of monopoly power and the government’s role in protecting us from it, we may pay a steep price in the years to come. Many of the company’s workers already contend with dismal conditions to fulfill Amazon’s promise to customers: whatever you want, delivered almost immediately.
There are countless signs that Amazon may morph into something no consumer wants. By then, it may be too late to do anything about it.
Amazon began as a modest online bookseller back in 1994, but it was clear from the start that founder Jeff Bezos had greater ambitions. The CEO’s quest for an “everything store,” along with early domain choices like Relentless.com (which redirects to Amazon to this day), only showcased the founder’s aggressive vision.
In the decades since, Amazon has expanded into new markets, including grocery, TV production, video streaming, cloud storage, in-home digital assistants, book publishing, fashion design, and even smart doorbells. Half of every dollar spent in online retail now goes into Amazon’s pocket.
“Amazon’s ambition goes far beyond dominating markets,” says Stacy Mitchell, an economics researcher and co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Its intention is to control the basic infrastructure that commerce runs on.”
Thus far it’s been smooth sailing for the company, in part because Americans adore Amazon. The company tops most customer satisfaction studies and is frequently portrayed by the tech press in the United States as the embodiment of innovation, efficiency, and ingenuity.