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Ten years ago, if you were to ask average Westerners if they had ever heard of AliExpress -- a subsidiary of Alibaba -- they would probably have had no idea what you were talking about. Jump ahead to 2019, and Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA) is on the rise, with a market cap of almost $500 billion.

Born from the ashes of the dot-com crash in 1999 and led by founder (and then-CEO) Jack Ma, the company quickly became an established e-commerce platform in its native China. From e-commerce and payments systems to cloud services and artificial intelligence, there are few sectors left in which Alibaba hasn't already established a strong presence.

The faces of Benjamin Franklin and Mao Zedong, as depicted on hundred-dollar bill and yuan bill, side by side

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On a global scale, it is competing against -- and in several instances outperforming -- its more ubiquitous American counterparts including Alphabet's Google, (NASDAQ:AMZN)PayPal, and eBay. When looking at all of this, it is no surprise that Alibaba may be the one platform that could challenge Amazon's dominance.

Alibaba 2019

Alibaba has grown to almost a half-trillion dollars, up 90% from its 2014 IPO. And through its subsidiary AliExpress, it already sells goods from Chinese retailers to customers in over 150 countries. The company is also in the process of allowing foreign retailers to sell their products, which could open up massive growth opportunities.

As with the other members of China's hailed BAT group (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent), Alibaba benefited greatly from the strict internet-controlling policies of its home country. With the Chinese government essentially filtering out foreign competitors, Alibaba was able to gain almost complete control of its own market.

Now the company is expanding globally, with equity stakes in other Asian markets such as in Indonesia's Tokopedia and India's Snapdeal, as well as its subsidiary Lazada — Southeast Asia's largest e-commerce platform.

While Amazon has seen some growth in revenue, which recently accelerated to 24% year over year from 20% in the second quarter, investors are currently wary. The U.S.-China trade war has cast some doubt over the stability of the market, which has led to ebbing and flowing in stocks such as Alibaba and Amazon. 

Alibaba has remained relatively stable as it rides out this storm, while Amazon has disappointed investors with just under 7% improvement in its stock price year on year as of late October.

Where to next?

The overall outlook on Alibaba stock is good, as consumer spending and populations in Asia grow. And China's consumer economy is on the rise, despite trade-war woes. Alibaba is also improving its profit margins as it slows down the rapid spending it has been doing in order to fuel growth in recent years. As of mid-2019, total revenue amounted to just over $60 billion, up from $45 billion the year before, with net income of $15 billion versus $9 billion the year previous. 

One of the main testaments to Alibaba's power is the fact that it has a near-monopoly of the world's largest market in China, as well as good standing in India. The e-commerce giant also has the ability to move in on the more accepting and open European and U.S. markets, while the likes of Amazon struggle to gain any foothold in the other direction.

While Amazon is the current leader in the U.S. and abroad, Alibaba's expansion is a threat that will only continue to grow. Although it may not be a threat to Amazon's dominance right now, who is to say that it cannot win over the U.S. market eventually with its lower prices and increased foreign trade?

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MyWallSt operates a full disclosure policy. MyWallSt staff currently hold long positions in Alibaba Group and Amazon. Read the full disclosure policy here.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.