Who is ruling our space and time?
Platforms Part 3(Check here for Part 1)
A day in life:
Woke up, checked my phone (Google), checked my Facebook (Facebook), Whatsapp (Facebook) and Instagram (Facebook). Went to a customer site (Google maps) with a CareShare service and listened to Spotify. Worked with some business software (Microsoft Azure), checked my email (Microsoft Office365), put some code on Github (Microsoft) and checked my LinkedIn (Microsoft). Took an Uber to go home. Ordered something at Takeaway.com. Checked my mail (Google Gmail), searched something (Google Search). Shopped on Zalando and Amazon. Watched something on Netflix, went to sleep.
When the Beatles wrote their song a day in life in 1967 things looked slightly different. All technologies were unknown long after the song was written. The way we spend our time has changed completely. It’s clear that platforms have a big influence on our lives. However, when you check the news they don’t seem so present. They are not news anymore, but incorporated wherever we are, whatever we do. The platforms have slipped into our lives and we seldom ask ourselves what their influence is.
There are some people who actually do that. Investors. Those who believe a company can reach platform level, pour loads of money into such a company (until it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy). Actually this has been a promise even before the internet bubble broke around 2000, but now you really see that platform companies are becoming bigger and bigger and start to monopolize transactions.
The shared revenue of the FAANG companies (which are all platform companies) have a combined revenue more than 600 billion dollars . New Zealand has a GDP of 186 billion dollars, Denmark 284 Billion dollars, Switzerland 517 Billion dollars. These are whole countries that have less GDP than the revenue of these platforms companies.
The marketplace have always been the center of a town or village. It wasn’t owned by people, but mostly managed by a town. So local politics defined how those markets worked. Internet marketplaces are owned by companies who operate world-wide on the internet. So a platform isn’t ruled by one regulator.
The platform determines which content is offered: a platform on traveling controls traveling and so on. Some companies like Amazon who have multiple platforms (Store, AWS and Prime) have not only earned a lot of money, but also gained a lot of power. This power is mostly put into lawsuits and lobbies against local governments.
What does the power of platforms means for us? The people who are living in the space and time of these platforms?
Platforms are companies, not democratic institutions. They don’t care about local communities or individuals. They don’t care about the climate or general well-being. Such companies don’t have any idealistic goals as long they’re not derivatives from profit, part of regulations or used for marketing purposes. They do such things as part of their growth strategy. They make the rules on the platform.
Could you imagine one platform for all newspapers where all users (newspapers and readers) need to agree on the terms of the platform to publish or read articles?
This is exactly the way platforms are controlling transactions. Of course governments try to restrict this (and sometimes succeed partly like in China), but most of the times it’s a struggle between a global company and local governments.
You see that platform companies pump around money to a place with the lowest taxes. It’s hard to find out where the revenue was really made. That’s why they’re fighting institutions and governments to be truly global. Even more than traditional multinationals local rules are getting in their way. You and I are part of that system, but have hardly a real voice in it.
A place for platforms
The intention of this blog wasn’t to end up in some kind of anti-globalization thread. However, it’s good to see the implications of this new kind of economy. For platform companies producers and consumers are really two sides of one coin. It’s of course about money, but the real problem is that platforms have world-wide monopoly on certain types of transactions.
Should platforms be governed by a worldwide organization? Will there be new alternative technologies which incorporate concepts like blockchain where producers/consumers can connect without middleman? I believe that the key for most solutions are users and usage.
We used to be governed by kings, but at the end we divided the system into independent domains, like law, government and parliament which are chosen by the people. Power of platforms could also be divided by an executive organization, shareholders (investors, government) and users. Usage could decide how taxes are paid. For using a platform users should get some credits which can be used to vote on terms of the transactions.
All platforms wouldn’t exist without the internet. The internet is in a way a platform on its own. A platform for platforms. Can we imagine that the internet was owned by one or a few companies? Of course the internet has an infrastructure which is owned by companies, but the concept is not.
Apps became platforms. When do platforms become concepts?
More on this topic: I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell