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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK

Business: The Company File

Amazon seeks its place in history

Jeff Bezos founded the website five years ago

The head of Internet bookseller Amazon, Jeff Bezos, says the online giant could still become a footnote in the history of electronic commerce.

Mr Bezos says the company needs further investment to ensure its longevity, even if this means forgoing short-term profit.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Bezos said if Amazon didn't "continue to obsess over our customers, we can still be a flash in the pan."

"If we can't turn it into a long-term business, we will be footnote in e-commerce history," he said.

Amazon customer base

Since it was launched in 1995, Amazon has become the biggest online retailer with a customer base of over 10 million. It has expanded from selling books to music CDs, videos, toys and electronic equipment, and now boasts an online auction site.

It has made heavy losses, however, investing in distribution systems and buying up other websites, such as and

While Bezos says long-term the company will be profitable, he says "it would be a huge mistake for Amazon to optimise profitability right now,"

He added: "It is really investing in customer experience ahead of the curve... We ask ourselves how can we make that better and we invest in that."

Turbulent ride for Internet stocks

Internet stocks have had a volatile market ride, but Mr Bezos says if Amazon concentrates on building an enduring franchise "the stock price will take care of itself."

The growth of Amazon has been phenomenal - customer accounts were 10.7m at the end of June this year, up more than 220% from 3.3m at the same time the year before.

Five years ago, Mr Bezos left his old job to set up the company, a decision that has seen him become a billionaire.

Mr Bezos explained his reasons for starting up the business. "In Spring '94, I came across a startling statistic that worldwide web usage was growing at 2300% a year... that was sort of a wake up call that something was going on here called the Internet," he said.

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