Jeff Bezos didn't invent online shopping, but he almost single-handedly turned it into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. His Amazon.com began as a bookstore in 1994, and quickly expanded into dozens of product categories, forcing the world's biggest retailers to rethink their business models, and ultimately changing the way people shop.
But Amazon.com isn't just an internet success story. It's the standard by which all web businesses are now judged -- if not by their shareholders, then by their customers. Amazon set a high bar for reliability and customer service, and also introduced a wide range of online retail conventions -- from user reviews and one-click shopping to the tab interface and shopping cart icon -- so commonplace we no longer think of them as once having been innovations.
When the Internet bubble burst, Amazon.com took a hit with the other e-commerce pioneers, but the fundamentally sound company hung tough. It now sells more than $10 billion a year of goods, profitably, and its technology will influence the changes to business and media that will come next. Amazon recently released Kindle, a wireless digital reading device, giving the term "page turning" a completely new definition. Bezos, meanwhile, is one of the few early Web CEOs who still run the companies they founded. Outside of his work with Amazon, he recently founded Blue Origin, a space-flight startup.