clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Recode Daily: How Amazon grew from big to unbelievably big in the past three years

Plus: Looking back — and ahead — at Google’s self-driving project Waymo; Stanford is reevaluating its role in shaping Silicon Valley’s future leaders; here comes the next wave of unicorn startups.

A woman works sitting on the floor of a gallery in front of a large-scale photograph entitled “Amazon.”
A gallery assistant makes final preparations to a floor marker as she sits in front of the large-scale photograph “Amazon” by artist Andreas Gursky in the reopened Hayward Gallery on January 24, 2018, in London, England.
Leon Neal / Getty Images

Amazon has 288 million square feet of warehouses, offices, retail stores, and data centers. In 2017 alone — the biggest growth year for the company’s properties — it added more square feet of building space (74.6 million) than the company had total in 2012 (73.1 million), when it was already the largest online retailer in the world. Amazon added more building space from 2016 to 2018 than it did in all the rest of its history. And it’s not due to the growth of Amazon Web Services, the company’s data-center business, or the acquisition of Whole Foods. All of Amazon’s retail locations add up to less than 20 million square feet; the whole AWS business occupies only 10 million square feet. Meanwhile, here’s a take on CEO Jeff Bezos’s journey from private family man to buff tabloid sensation.[Alexis C. Madrigal / The Atlantic]

[Want to get the Recode Daily in your inbox? Subscribe here.]

President Trump plans to sign a long-delayed executive order that would ban Chinese telecom equipment from US wireless networks, and his administration could be timing the directive to coincide with MWC Barcelona — the conference formerly known as Mobile World Congress — which takes place February 25-28. By preempting MWC, the world’s largest conference for the wireless industry, the White House hopes to send a signal that future contracts for cutting-edge technology must prioritize cybersecurity. This could complicate not only US-Chinese trade relations but a 5G buildout for US companies, as Huawei controls more than a quarter of the global telecom equipment market. [Eric Geller / Politico]

High-speed internet is not really available where the government says it is. And that misinformation means that a lot of Americans, especially those in poor and rural areas, can’t get access to broadband — a service that is becoming more and more integral to daily life in the US. The Federal Communications Commission uses data that is self-reported by the internet service providers themselves to help make internet policy decisions and to allocate $4.6 billion in subsidies and funding each year to correct the country’s connectivity gaps. In essence, the government data is measuring areas in which an internet connection could exist, rather than where it is. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel summed up the issue succinctly: “We cannot manage what we do not measure.” [Rani Molla / Recode]

A decade ago, Project Chauffeur — then known as the “Google self-driving car project” — kicked off inside the tech giant’s moonshot factory called X. In 2016, it graduated from its project status to become a standalone company called Waymo. The project became a springboard for engineers who would go on to create their own companies, including Aurora co-founder Chris Urmson, Argo AI co-founder Bryan Salesky, and Anthony Levandowski, who helped launch Otto and more recently Many of Waymo’s original engineers are still there, including CTO and VP of engineering Dmitri Dolgov, who talks about the project’s early days and what’s next in a Q&A interview. [Kirsten Korosec / TechCrunch]

Stanford University has established itself as the epicenter of computer science and a farm system for the Silicon Valley giants. In the wake of the endless barrage of negative news in tech — from Facebook fueling propaganda campaigns by Russian trolls to Amazon selling surveillance software to governments — Stanford finds itself reevaluating its role in shaping the Valley’s future leaders. Professors are revamping courses to address the ethical challenges tech companies are grappling with right now. And students are reconsidering whether working at Google or Facebook is landing a dream job or selling out to craven corporate interests; some disillusioned students are more interested in learning how to regulate tech than building the next product that promises to change the world. [Victor Luckerson / The Ringer]

Movie-theater chains like Cinemark and AMC are testing high-end, immersive multiplayer virtual reality experiences in select US cinemas, building on Imax’s abandoned experiments in the space. The debut location-based VR experience from a company called Spaces is now playing at a Cinemark multiplex in San Jose: Terminator Salvation: Fight For the Future is a four-person experience structured like a real-life action movie. And AMC has committed to establishing Dreamscape Immersive’s “pods” in at least four theaters and standalone locations starting later this year. Dreamscape’s first standalone location in Los Angeles has been booked solid since it opened in December. [Peter Rubin / Wired]

Top stories from Recode

Jeff Bezos used to fight the spotlight. Now the world’s wealthiest person is surrendering. It’s a media pro move, and it’s one that you can only make once you decide you want to be a media figure to begin with. [Theodore Schleifer]

Amazon’s opponents think the company is bluffing about killing its HQ2 plan in NYC. According to a new report from the Washington Post, the company is reconsidering its development plans for New York. But it could be a political tactic to get Amazon’s opponents in line. [Shirin Ghaffary]

This is cool

I cut the “Big Five” tech giants from my life. It was hell.

Here comes the next wave of “unicorn” startups.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.