Amazon launched 22 years ago this week -- here's how the business has evolved

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images.

The idea for Amazon was born in 1994 in New York City, while Jeff Bezos was working in finance and realising the internet was not something he could not let pass him by.

Bezos put together a list of things he thought he could sell online and picked books, According to “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” Brad Stone’s 2013 book on the origins of the company. Bezos launched Amazon as an online bookstore in 1995.

In 2016, some 21 years later, Amazon hit $US136 billion in sales. With its recent deal to buy Whole Foods, a top-tier cloud computing business, and a line of consumer electronics that includes its popular Echo smart speakers, Amazon has come a long way from its bookstore beginning.

It’s also setting up its retail operations in Australia.

With help from the Wayback Machine, we took a look at how Amazon’s homepage has evolved with the company.

1995: Books and more books

Jon Erlichman

Amazon officially opened for business on July 16, 1995 as an online book seller. With 1 million titles in its catalogue, it advertised itself as 'Earth's biggest bookstore.'

The original homepage featured a 'Spotlight!' section of the books 'we' love. At the time that 'we' was not the thousands of people Amazon employs today but Jeff Bezos, his wife MacKenzie, and seven early believers.

The first sale and the packing slip

John Wainwright, Quora

The first book Amazon sold was a copy of Douglas Hofstader's 'Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.' It was purchased by Jon Wainwright, a computer scientist who had been invited to test a beta version of the e-commerce site, according to the Atlantic.

Wainwright ordered the book while he was at work over his office's T-1 connection, he said in a Quora post. The purchase still shows up in his order history.

1999: eCards and Auctions

Wayback Machine

By 1999 -- a little more than four years after it launched its site -- Amazon had broadened its offerings to include sales of videos and electronics. Because people other than your great aunt were still using e-Cards, Amazon offered them too. And its short-lived auction service live.

Take note of the top three hottest books then:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,' 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,' and 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.'

2004: A full department store -- and a search engine of its own

Wayback Machine

By the early 2000s Amazon had streamlined its site's appearance.

After adding housewares, baby products, and beauty goods, Amazon more resembled the behemoth of a retailer we all know and love today. With gourmet food business in the testing stages, we can see the company already had food delivery on its mind.

In 2004, Amazon launched a search engine called A9. Basically an online yellow pages with pictures, A9 offered a feature called Block View that was similar to -- but predated -- Google Maps' Street View. A9 paired each listing in its directory with a street-level photograph of the business' storefront or office.

2008: Touting the Kindle -- and the homepage gets an upgrade.

Wayback Machine

In 2008, DVDs were still popular and the Kindle, which Amazon launched late the year before, was 'revolutionary.' The team that developed the prototype originally named the device 'Fiona' but Bezos later named it the Kindle because he wanted to play on the idea of starting a fire.

2012: The Kindle has a family

Wayback Machine

By 2012, the Kindle had taken off and Amazon was offering several different models, including a full-colour tablet. Meanwhile, the company had had upped its game with its homepage design.

With 35 departments including Android apps, instant video, and software, Amazon had become a force to be reckoned with.

Today: The true 'Everything Store'

Caroline Cakebread / Business Insider

Amazon's current homepage and business is a testament to Bezos' entrepreneurial genius. The company has expanded into just about every business there is, including groceries and home cleaning. Above the full department directory the page now simply says, 'Earth's biggest selection.'

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