Should We Be Thanking Jeff Bezos?
Love or hate him, Bezos, who steps down as Amazon CEO on July 5, has left his mark
Was there ecommerce before Jeff Bezos and Amazon? Not by my recollection. I can still close my eyes and see that first simplistic site and Amazon logo.
Honestly, it didn’t look like much, and we all wondered if what they were doing — selling stuff through the untamed World Wide Web — was even legal. Our naive understanding of the 1995 Internet is that it was supposed to be a non-commercial platform for information exchange and discovery.
Bezos, a Princeton graduate with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, had a brain for what we then called “virtual commerce.” Unlike many early Internet pioneers, he didn’t stumble around, trying and discarding various half-baked ideas until settling on the virtual bookstore. No, Bezos saw the opportunity of an electronic bookstore and started with that on July 5, 1994. That’s right, Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon 27 years to the day after he incorporated Amazon.
Love it or hate it (love Bezos or hate him), Amazon built virtually every major ecommerce innovation in use today and did it the hard way.
People forget how Bezos grew Amazon at a wild scale even after suffering year after year of losses (even as Bezos joined the billionaire's club in 1998). Being the World’s Bookseller meant Amazon not only needed to have a vast library of books (one that, as I recall, grew slowly at first), but a way to store and then ship them to almost anywhere in the world. Building all those warehouses and storing and shipping all that inventory was incredibly expensive (it still is). Bezos, however, was undaunted. I think he knew at his core that this was the way.
As Bezos diversified Amazon — often crushing smaller vertically oriented challengers in its wake and not always through fair play — he was constantly reinventing the complex website. There were growing pains. I remember that the number of Amazon.com tabs grew so onerous that no one in their right mind could navigate them.
Over the last three decades, Bezos has shown the web how to build information architecture in a way that manages growth and consumer expectations. It’s…