The ubiquity of multi-sided platforms

Russ Abbott, Department of Computer Science, California State University, Los Angeles,

Multi-sided platforms are levels of abstraction that enable interaction among multiple users. Examples range from shopping centers (merchants and shoppers) to web browsers (web site owners and web surfers).

The owners of successful multi-sided platforms (e.g., MS Windows and television stations) profit from them by selling access to one group of users to another group of users or to advertisers. But since multi-sided platforms are central to so much of our lives, we often limit their control by private organizations. Mechanisms include government ownership or regulation, standards, and open sourcing.

Some multi-sided platforms (the monetary and banking system and the judicial and legal system) define our economic framework. Others, like natural language, are fundamental to how we interact.

A useful way to understand our interaction with the environment in general is as a collection of (often) multi-sided platforms, each of which defines a level of macro interaction.