Airbnb, the online marketplace for private holiday rentals, is now active in 192 countries and is worth an estimated 7.3 billion euros. The City of New York has sued the company in order to receive tourist taxes. Uber is an app which connects users with the drivers of vehicles for hire. It places the livelihood of licensed taxi operators at risk and has already been banned in Brussels, Berlin and Hamburg.
These are just two examples of companies which have disrupted the existing markets to such an extent that the authorities were forced to intervene.
Platforms can be very influential: they clearly have strength. But this strength also has a downside. If platforms become too powerful, economic and societal interests are at risk. Whether there is indeed any adverse impact depends in part on the conditions that the providers impose in terms of who can make use of their platform, and how. Closed platforms exclude other companies, smaller businesses and civil initiatives, thereby severely restricting competition. Consumers who make significant use of one platform provider’s products will find it extremely difficult to switch to another provider whose products are not compatible.
With contributions of the following authors: Maurits Kreijveld, Chris Aalberts, Irma Borst, Harry Bouwman, Jasper Deuten, Rinie van Est, Nanning de Jong, Edith Lammerts van Bueren, Fatemeh Nikayin, Mark de Reuver, Sam Solaimani, Huib de Vriend and Frans Brom.