- 13th September 2019
- Posted by: Muff lbr
- Category: Innovation, Technology
- Tech platforms can be great businesses because their value grows exponentially with each new node, while the expense of maintaining them grows linearly.
- But the deal breaks down when the outsiders who create much of their value no longer feel like they’re getting a fair shake.
- We’re seeing more complainers than ever these days, including content creators for Facebook and YouTube, marketplace sellers and buyers on Amazon and Uber and Lyft drivers.
The tech industry loves platforms.
About eight years ago, when Instagram was still an independent company with a handful of employees, I met co-founder Kevin Systrom at an event and listened to him explain his young photo-sharing app to a couple of folks from big tech companies.
Instagram is not an app, he explained. It’s a platform.
What he meant: Do not think of Instagram as a mere piece of software that lets people snap photos on their iPhone and put interesting filters on them. (That’s more like VSCO.) Rather, think of Instagram as a community, an easy place for mobile phone users who are interested in expressing themselves with photos to congregate and share their work. Eventually, perhaps, they could even make money from it.
(Implied but left unsaid from Systrom: Think about advertisers interrupting these conversations with commercial messages that blend seamlessly into the flow.)
I wasn’t sure I bought Systrom’s vision at the time — every start-up founder in that era said they were building a platform — but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had already done it. Paying $1 billion for a company with about a dozen employees seemed loony in 2012, but Zuckerberg understood the power of a visual communication platform in an era where always-on mobile devices with amazing cameras would become ubiquitous.