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Compatibility and Market Structure for Network Goods

  • Nicholas Economides
  • Fredrick Flyer

This paper analyzes the economics of industries where network externalities are significant. In such industries, firms have strong incentives to adhere to common technical compatibility standards, so that they reap the network externalities of the whole group. However, a firm also benefits from producing an incompatible product thereby increasing its horizontal product differentiation. We show how competition balances these opposing incentives. We find that market equilibria often exhibit extreme disparities in sales, output prices, and profits across firms, despite no inherent differences in the firms' production technologies. This may explain the frequent domination of network industries by one or two firms. We also find that the presence of network externalities dramatically affects conventional welfare analysis, as total surplus in markets where these externalities are strong is highest under monopoly and declines with entry of additional firms.

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File URL: http://raven.stern.nyu.edu/networks/98-02.pdf
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Paper provided by New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 98-02.

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Date of creation: Nov 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ste:nystbu:98-02
Contact details of provider: Postal: New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics, 44 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012-1126
Phone: (212) 998-0860
Fax: (212) 995-4218
Web page: http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/economics/

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  1. Nicholas Economides, 1995. "The Economics of Networks," Working Papers 94-24, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics, revised Sep 1995.
  2. Mussa, Michael & Rosen, Sherwin, 1978. "Monopoly and product quality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 301-317, August.
  3. Katz, Michael L & Shapiro, Carl, 1985. "Network Externalities, Competition, and Compatibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 424-40, June.
  4. GABSZEWICZ, Jean J. & THISSE, Jacques-François, . "Price competition, quality and income disparities," CORE Discussion Papers RP -370, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  5. Becker, Gary S, 1991. "A Note on Restaurant Pricing and Other Examples of Social Influences on Price," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 1109-16, October.
  6. d'ASPREMONT, Claude & JACQUEMIN, Alexis & GABSZEWICZ, Jean J. & WEYMARK, John A., . "On the stability of collusive price leadership," CORE Discussion Papers RP -522, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  7. Donsimoni, Marie-Paule & Economides, Nicholas S & Polemarchakis, Herakles M, 1986. "Stable Cartels," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 27(2), pages 317-27, June.
  8. Raymond Deneckere & Carl Davidson, 1985. "Incentives to Form Coalitions with Bertrand Competition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 16(4), pages 473-486, Winter.
  9. Shaked, Avner & Sutton, John, 1982. "Relaxing Price Competition through Product Differentiation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(1), pages 3-13, January.
  10. Nicholas Economides & Charles Himmelberg, 1995. "Critical Mass and Network Size with Application to the US Fax Market," Working Papers 95-11, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
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