Marketplaces Are Not Platforms

Branding alone doesn't make it so.

The word platform has become so banal that it’s nearly lost its meaning. For example, consider ride-sharing service Lyft. Of course, the terms service and marketplace aren’t nearly as sexy as a platform. No surprise: that’s precisely how the company defines itself. From Crunchbase:

Lyft is a peer-to-peer transportation platform that connects passengers who need rides with drivers willing to provide rides using their own personal vehicles.

What exactly can external developers build on top of Lyft? Not a thing.

Interestingly, Uber doesn’t brand itself on Crunchbase as a platform, but its management clearly understands the benefits of open APIs and platform thinking.

Branding alone doesn’t mean a hill of beans.

True platforms like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and WordPress allow third parties to take companies’ core offerings in new and exciting directions.

Simon Says

Wearing a funny hat doesn’t make you the Pope. The same bromide holds true for platforms. There’s a world of difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin Carroll

    I say that platforms must meet these criteria to maximize value:

    (1) performs at least one essential function that sparks ecosystem interactions
    (2) it should be easy for for the
    (a) supply-side to connect to or build on to receive demand-side intent and/or
    (b) demand-side to connect to or build on to manage the supply-side

    Reply

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