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When Does a Platform Create Value by Limiting Choice?

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Abstract

We present a theory for why it might be rational for a platform to limit the number of applications available on it. Our model is based on the observation that even if users prefer application variety, applications often also exhibit direct network effects. When there are direct network effects, users prefer to consume the same applications to benefit from consumption complementarities. We show that the combination of preference for variety and consumption complementarities gives rise to (i) a commons problem (users have an incentive to consume more applications than the social optimum to better satisfy their preference for variety); (ii) an equilibrium selection problem (consumption complementarities often lead to multiple equilibria); and (iii) a coordination problem (lacking perfect foresight, it is unlikely that users will end up buying the same set of applications). The analysis shows that the platform can resolve these problems by limiting the number of applications available. By limiting choice, the platform may create new equilibria (including the socially efficient allocation), destroy Pareto-dominated equilibria, and reduce the severity of the coordination problem faced by users.

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  • Ramon Casadesus-Masanell & Hanna Halaburda, 2010. "When Does a Platform Create Value by Limiting Choice?," Working Papers 10-04, NET Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:1004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. E. Glen Weyl, 2010. "A Price Theory of Multi-sided Platforms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1642-1672, September.
    2. Church, Jeffrey & Gandal, Neil, 1992. "Network Effects, Software Provision, and Standardization," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(1), pages 85-103, March.
    3. Chou, Chien-fu & Shy, Oz, 1996. "Do consumers gain or lose when more people buy the same brand," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 309-330, September.
    4. Jean-Charles Rochet & Jean Tirole, 2014. "Platform Competition in Two-Sided Markets," CPI Journal, Competition Policy International, vol. 10.
    5. Caillaud, Bernard & Jullien, Bruno, 2003. " Chicken & Egg: Competition among Intermediation Service Providers," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(2), pages 309-328, Summer.
    6. Ramon Casadesus-Masanell & Francisco Ruiz-Aliseda, 2008. "Platform Competition, Compatibility, and Social Efficiency," Working Papers 08-32, NET Institute.
    7. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
    8. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-440, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Claussen, Jörg & Kretschmer, Tobias & Mayrhofer, Philip, 2010. "Incentives for Quality over Time – The Case of Facebook Applications," Discussion Papers in Business Administration 12500, University of Munich, Munich School of Management.
    2. Kevin J. Boudreau & Lars B. Jeppesen, 2015. "Unpaid crowd complementors: The platform network effect mirage," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(12), pages 1761-1777, December.
    3. Feng Zhu & Qihong Liu, 2014. "Competing with Complementors: An Empirical Look at Amazon.com," Harvard Business School Working Papers 15-044, Harvard Business School, revised Feb 2016.
    4. Täuscher, Karl, 2017. "Leveraging collective intelligence: How to design and manage crowd-based business models," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 237-245.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    platform governance; direct network effects; indirect network effects; complements; tragedy of the commons; equilibrium selection; coordination; foresight.;

    JEL classification:

    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly
    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software

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