I have previously explained how network effects shape three broad types of tech businesses — marketplaces, interaction networks and data networks. In addition to these, there is one other type of business where network effects play a central role — platforms. Unfortunately, the tech and startup world has spent much of the past decade using the term “platform” to describe everything from operating systems to analytics tools, algorithms, APIs, etc. Quite plainly, if everything is a platform, then nothing is and the term loses all meaning. So let’s take a more granular look at what platforms really are, and then unpack how their network effects work.
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