Dossier on collaborative economy (I): Platform economies and collaborative business, coordinated by Joan Torrent-SellensISSUE 14 (NOVEMBER 2020)
DEFINING A TRANSFORMATION

Digital platforms: Foundations and a classification proposal

Abstract

Although those structures that we now call platforms have always been present in some sectors, it is from the establishment of the digital economy that they have come to play a leading role in our lives. Without understanding the mechanisms that govern the dynamics of digital platforms, which are different from those associated with the more traditional economy, it is difficult to understand many aspects of how today’s economy works. The objective of this article is to offer an introduction to the idea of platform and its characteristics. First, we review the general platform concept, the specificities of digital platforms and the particularities of their operation. Second, we describe the characteristics of the platforms that we consider more relevant in order to understand their social and economic effects. Finally, we choose three of these characteristics (the degree of digitisation, the openness in terms of access, provision, use and distribution, and their governance mechanisms) to develop a proposal for the classification of the platforms that we intend as a help to organise a little better our conception of the phenomenon. The classification scheme leads to the definition of different types of platforms that behave differently, as shown by the examples that we identify for each of them. We hope that our analysis will contribute to a better understanding of the paradigm shift brought about by the digitisation of the economy.

platforms;  digital economy;  network effects;  two-sided markets;  collaborative economy; 
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