Platform understanding is growing

I have put some focus back on the platforms recently, as this is becoming a real imperative to understand the whole meaning and implications of platforms, with the necessary management they require, so as to enable us to rethink different business models for the future.

There are without doubt real business implications in taking on a platform strategy as they really will be having such a transforming effect on all we do within companies and way beyond with others, including customers and even past competitors. They uproot the present and much of the established practicies.

They are changing the face of markets, industries, and competition but we within the established business world, mostly formed in the 20th centure seem slow to recognize their incredible impact, if we applied this platform thinking towards our own business, what would it mean?

There is a recognition that all innovation does not occur inside, it occurs from ‘open’ collaboration. It occurs from engagement and appreciating many others have better insights and possible answers, it is the power of combining them that has such economic consequence and great value creation potential. Our businesses are all becoming based on platforms.

The difficulty for many of us is first understanding what a platform is all about. The getting a clearer picture of the different types of platforms. Each has different tasks in building their specific “network effect” and how they are set up to interact and the type of problems they are attempting to solve. Some are really open, some are seeking growth, some are seeking collaborators to come together and work on ‘cracking’ more complex problems that one individual company would not be able to do.

In some of my recent updating of the platform breaking scene, I came across a terrific site that has created an open initiative to help entrepreneurs and organizations of all sizes to relate and build successful platform businesses, called Platform Hunt.

This Platform Hunt site has been created and managed by Michael Vakulenko @mvakulenko as the Administrator and driving force and Sameer Singh @sameersingh17 adding in his thoughts and contributions.

I wanted to simply ‘spread the work’ on behalf of the work being undertaken here. Platform Hunt is a public Trello board and their purpose is in building a definitive guide to platform business models. It has been studying around 170+ so far and is adding constantly to these. The board is open to anyone to submit a platform example to learn from the collective experience of others.

So far Platform Hunt has identified nine distinct platform types and what I wanted to do here is provide their definitions of the differences of these nine with a couple of examples they cite. They have written a very useful blog on “the nine types of software platforms” that does give a lot of useful detail, examples, and explanations.

All I want to do here is reproduce their nine platforms in their descriptions as I find these very useful to relate too, providing a few examples of the platform business model that fits with this descriptor. As they work under a CC BY, Creative Commons with Attribution, I hope this equally spreads the word of their work through this.

Interaction networks

These create networks of participants and facilitate digital interaction between them (people and/ or business). digital interactions can take the form of a message, voice call, image or money transfer. Examples of these are Facebook. WeChat, LkinkedIn, SnapChat, Twitter, Alipay, PayPal, WhatsApp, and Bitcoin.


These enable transactions between demand-side and supply-side players. Price is set by the market participants. There is a high sensitivity for the variety of services/ products offered on the platform. Examples are Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Taobao, Airbnb, Amazon Fresh, Trucker Path, Kickstarter, Kickcom.

On-demand Service Platforms

These deliver end-to-end services fulfilled by a network of service providers. The platforms integrate matching, order, payment, fulfillment, certification, and confirmation. Price, quality and the fulfillment process are set up by the platform. They are low sensitivity for the variety of services/ products offered on the platform and high sensitivity to the availability/ quality of the service. This includes Uber, Amazon Home Services, Munchery, Makespace, Amazon Flex, Shyp, and Crowdflower.

Content Crowdsourcing Platforms

Crowdsource content in the form of text, images, ratings from a group of engaged users and make this context available to all users of the platform. Examples here are YouTube, Trip Advisor, Medium, Yelp, Gogobot, Pinterest.

Data Harvesting Platforms

Crowdsourcing data through the usage of a service and use of data to make the service more valuable for users. Examples here include Wave, Moovit, OpenSignal. 23andMe, Sense360.

Content Distribution Platforms

These distribute content by connecting owners of user touch-points with content owners. Examples are Google Adsense, Outbrain, Millenial Media, Smaato,

Technology Platforms

These provide software components as building blocks or services, designed for reuse in a large number of products. Adoption is driven by permission-less innovation of 3rd party developers who integrate platform’s technology and services into their products. The developer “owns” the user. Examples here are the big beasts of platforms, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM Bluemix, Cloud foundry, GE Predix, Facebook Parse, Jasper, Heroku.

Computing Platforms

These connect users for the computing platform and 3rd party developers typically through an app store. Developers supply apps/extensions for the platform making it more valuable for users. The app store implements discovery, recommendations, and removal of apps/extensions. The platform “owns” the user. Again here we have examples like Apple iOS, Google Android, Apple macOS (OS X), Microsoft Windows, Chrome OS, SmartThings, Amazon Echo / Alexa, Slack Bot Platform

Utility Platforms

These attract users by providing a useful service (often free). The monetize by B2B services that use the data from the user-side service (e.g personalized ads, commissions, aggregated analytics or service fees). This includes Google Adwords, Zenefits, Google Maps, Kayak, App Annie, Tripping, ChatNbook, and eShares.

So Platform Hunt and in particular Michael Vakulenko have made a really good job of defining the types of platforms and providing examples of each. On each example, they are supplying a card description with links and brief explanations. I am finding these really helpful in understanding how and where platforms are expanding out across all industry and social realms.

They are asking for anyone to submit their platform example by filling out the form at

In summary

So please do remember this is the work of Michael and his team at Platform Hunt and as this is under the Creative Commons with Attribution please make sure you do credit this work, if you do refer to it as you think through your platform options

Platform Hunt is making a good contribution to understanding the developments of platforms and I would expect Michael is looking to take out his nine types into even more, once he has been informed and undertaken the due research as platform offerings are evolving with new business models.

Why not help him improve this public repository, we all benefit.


















2 thoughts on “Platform understanding is growing

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