Amazon's Rise and How It Became Bigger Than Walmart

PHOTO: Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, introduces the Kindle at a news conference in this Nov. 19, 2007 file photo in New York.PlayMark Lennihan/AP Photo
WATCH Amazon Overtakes Walmart in Market Value

Amazon set up shop as an online book seller when buying anything from the Internet was a radically new idea for many Americans -- and two decades later, the company today became more valuable than Walmart.

A surprise second quarter profit announced on Thursday gave Amazon's stock a 17, which held this morning when trading opened -- giving Amazon a market cap of $263.2 billion. The valuation surpasses Walmart, which has a cap of $232.7 billion.

Amazon's spectacular quarter included sales spike of 20 percent. That number does not includes sales from the Amazon's July 15th Prime Day, which the company said was a success and had sales outnumbering Black Friday.

While Walmart is still the world's biggest retailer in terms of revenue, Amazon's evolution from a start-up in a modest office building to a retail juggernaut employing more than 97,000 employees has changed the shape of the retail industry.

Here's a look at key moments in Amazon's journey from starting as a book selling start-up bootstrapped by CEO Jeff Bezos' parents to becoming one of the world's most admired companies.

Cadabra

Seeing an opportunity to harness the reach and power of this mystical place called the World Wide Web, Jeff Bezos decided to start an e-commerce site selling books, first calling it Cadabra but later changing the name to Amazon after realizing the name sounded too much like "cadaver."

His parents were his first investors, despite Bezos recalling in an Academy of Achievement interview his father having to ask him to explain what the Internet is. Bezos said he warned them there was a 70 percent chance they could lose their investment but the Bezos' smartly made the right choice.

PHOTO: In this undated file photo Amazons first gateway page is shown. Amazon
In this undated file photo Amazon's first gateway page is shown.

Amazon made its first sale in July 1995, shipping one very curious customer the book "Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought."

Amazon's Initial Public Offering

In May 1997, Amazon announced its IPO and began trading on NASDAQ Under "AMZN." Later that year, the company introduced one-click shopping, allowing customers to expedite their online shopping experience.

Going Global

Amazon launched its first international sites, Amazon.co.uk (UK) and Amazon.de (Germany)in October 1998. The company today serves customers through at least 11 different retail websites spanning the globe.

PHOTO: Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, appears on Time Magazines Dec. 27, 1999 Person of the Year cover. Courtey Time Magazine
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, appears on Time Magazine's Dec. 27, 1999 Person of the Year cover.

Person of the Year

Amazon was of course one of the companies to survive the dot com bubble of the late 1990s. At its peak, Bezos was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year.

Free Shipping

Shipping costs can be a deciding factor between a person buying something in a brick and mortar store or purchasing online. Amazon made a huge grab for more customers in August 2002 with one of its super saving shipping offer. The threshold was lowered from $100 to $25. Amazon today offers free shipping for people who buy $35 or more of eligible merchandise.

Becoming a Super Store

Amazon had come a long way from being just a book store. In 2003, the company added new categories, including sporting goods, outdoor equipment, gourmet food, health and personal care products.

PHOTO: Employees work on the warehouse floor at one of Amazon.com Inc.s fulfillment centers, Nov. 25, 2014, in Peterborough, U.K. Bloomberg/Getty Images
Employees work on the warehouse floor at one of Amazon.com Inc.'s fulfillment centers, Nov. 25, 2014, in Peterborough, U.K.

Amazon Prime

Amazon debuted its Prime service in 2005, giving customers who pay an annual fee free two-day shipping. The program continues to go strong a decade later. Amazon said on Thursday the $99-a-year Prime loyalty program played a role in driving growth for its spectacular second quarter.

PHOTO: The Amazon.com Inc. Prime logo is displayed on computer screens, April 23, 2014, in Tiskilwa, Ill. Bloomberg/Getty Images
The Amazon.com Inc. Prime logo is displayed on computer screens, April 23, 2014, in Tiskilwa, Ill.

Amazon Studios

Launched in 2010, Amazon Studios develops television shows, movies and comics based on crowd feedback. "Transparent," has been the biggest hit to come out of Amazon Studios. The show, which won Golden Globe awards earlier this year racked up 12 Emmy nominations earlier this month.

PHOTO: Amy Landecker, left, and Jeffrey Tambor appear in a scene from Transparent, a series from Amazon Studios. Amazon/AP Photo
Amy Landecker, left, and Jeffrey Tambor appear in a scene from "Transparent," a series from Amazon Studios.

Amazon Web Services

One of the key drivers of this quarter's results is Amazon Web Services, a cloud-based suite of business tools. Revenue from the service was reported at $1.82 billion -- up 81 percent from the last quarters when Amazon began breaking out the business in its earnings report.