Shel Kaphan was Amazon's first employee. He joined the company after it was founded in 1994. Kaphan was Amazon's chief technology officer and was a key architect of the company's website. He left the company in 1999. A documentary show on PBS called Frontline had Shel Kaphan on for an interview. This interview took place in a two-hour special, "Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos" that aired on February 18.
"I built a substantial part of the early system that allowed them to come into existence, so I feel responsibility because of that," said Kaphan during the interview. "On one hand, I'm proud of what it became, but it also scares me."
Kaplan believes that Amazon should be broken up. The company's size and influence makes it hard for smaller businesses to compete in the online shopping world. He continued, "I think the characterization of Amazon as a ruthless competitor is true. Under the flag of customer obsession they can do a lot of things which might not be good for people who aren't their customers."
Kaplan voiced his concerns about the company to BBC's Panorama. The Panorama documentary, not only interviewed Kaplan, but explored Amazon's warehouse working conditions and its marketing dominance. Kaplan wasn't the only one to express concerns. BBC also interviewed several former Amazon employees who feared Amazon's swift growth.
However, several Amazon executives denied these claims. They believe that Amazon has no reason to break up. An Amazon spokesperson explained to reporters that Amazon only represents 1% of global retail. The spokesperson added that Amazon still competes rigorously with walk-in and online stores worldwide. People still shop at these other stores every day. CEO of Amazon's consumer business, Jeff Wilke explained at Amazon competes with several retail companies like Walmart
"We're in a lot of verticals, yes. There's video and there's commerce, and there's web services. But in every one of them, we have intense competition," Wilke said. "If we were everywhere, that means we're talking about the global economy, not just global retail. It's so vast. We're just - you know, we're a speck."