Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos revealed Wednesday that its Prime membership service has over 100 million paid customers worldwide.
The company hasn't previously offered a specific number about its Prime members, instead keeping the size of one of its most important businesses a secret until now. Amazon has previously said it has tens of millions of Prime members in the US and tens of millions internationally.
Because Amazon has kept up the secret for so long, many industry analysts have instead spent years estimating the Prime membership rolls, often offering up numbers that were tens of millions apart from each other. Without knowing how big Prime is or how much it's growing, it's been difficult to figure out how successful the program has been.
"I'm extremely proud to share some of the milestones we hit last year, each of which represents the fruition of many years of collective effort. We take none of them for granted," Bezos wrote in his annual shareholder letter, where he revealed the Prime membership number.
The 100 million mark likely shows rival retailers that Amazon's dominance in e-commerce and beyond is bound to continue. It also should give Amazon even more reason to keep expanding to new countries and adding benefits to Prime, which costs $99 in the US, so it can continue bringing in new customers to the program.
Prime -- a 13-year-old membership program that includes unlimited two-day shipping, a streaming video library and a bunch of other perks -- is a vital part of Amazon's business, since members tend to spend about twice as much on the website as non-Prime shoppers, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
There are currently 16 Prime countries, with the US the biggest market. The other countries are Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, China, India, Japan and Singapore. Australia is expected to get Prime later this year.
As part of his letter, Bezos also said that for the first time in Amazon's history, its third-party marketplace last year accounted for more than half of its sales. According to Amazon's latest earnings report, marketplace sales have accounted for 50 percent to 51 percent of sales over the past year. The marketplace includes 2 million independent sellers worldwide who offer up their goods on Amazon along with the company's direct sales.
The marketplace helps Amazon vastly expand its inventory and it's generally more profitable than Amazon's direct sales, since Amazon doesn't purchase the items itself.
Tech Enabled: CNET chronicles tech's role in providing new kinds of accessibility.
Blockchain Decoded: CNET looks at the tech powering bitcoin -- and soon, too, a myriad of services that will change your life.