Amazon is one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. And one of its early employees believes that's a major problem.

Speaking to Recode in an interview published this week, Paul Davis, a programmer and the second employee Amazon hired, said he believes that Amazon has become too big and should be split into two parts.

"There's clearly a public good to have something that functions like the Amazon Marketplace," Davis said. "If this didn't exist, you'd want it to be built. What's not valuable, and what's not good, is that the company that operates the marketplace is also a retailer. They have complete access to every single piece of data and can use that to shape their own retail marketplace."

Davis worked at Amazon between 1994 and 1996, and played a role in programming the original Amazon.com, according to the report. He said that he left because he felt Amazon's culture worked people "into the ground."

Davis's core argument seems to center on fears about how Amazon, as the company that operates a retail store with third-party sellers, is also a retailer itself. And he seems to be concerned that in its role on both sides of the equation, Amazon has too much power.

Ultimately, he told Recode, he would like to see the Amazon Marketplace, which allows third-party sellers to sell products on the site, to be split into its own company. Amazon would then operate on its own as a retailer.

"They're not breaking any agreements," Davis said. "They're just violating what most people would assume was how this is going to work: 'I sell stuff though your system [and] you're not going to steal our sales.'"

His argument flies in the face of what Amazon says about its own service. While the company acknowledges that it operates as a retailer, it believes that its success centers on its ability to work with third-party sellers in its Marketplace. In a statement to Recode, Amazon said that nearly 60 percent of the sales in its stores are made by third-party sellers.

"Amazon only succeeds when sellers succeed and claims to the contrary are wrong," a company spokesperson told Recode.

Still, it's a question that won't go away for Amazon anytime soon. The fact is, Amazon is in a very important position in retail. Retailers big and small rely on the company to succeed. While it's true Amazon might also rely on them, Amazon has other businesses, including cloud computing, that drive its success.

Published on: Dec 23, 2019
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