The platform concept is not new; it's actually been practiced for millennia. The traditional, open-air marketplace, such as a Middle-Eastern souk, is one such platform in which farmers and craftspeople sell their wares openly to consumers. The original stock markets were the same--buyers and sellers of shares would gather in person to establish fair market prices.
The difference between these traditional platform businesses and modern platforms is the addition of digital technology, which expands reach, efficacy, and convenience. Businesses engaged in digital platform models seek to leverage network effects--a phenomenon whereby a good or service becomes more valuable when more people use it. The car-service platform Uber is the perfect example, claiming a huge and growing share of the rides-for-hire market, displacing taxi and limousine services as a result.
However, Uber's disruption of its industry may only have just begun. In the upcoming MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Platform Revolution: Making Networked Markets Work for You (online), Geoffrey Parker, a Visiting Scholar and Research Fellow at MIT's Initiative for the Digital Economy, will suggest that the advent of self-driving cars may signficantly improve Uber's already stellar economic model and possibly lead to a series of cascading impacts. Might millions of people eschew car ownership altogether and instead rely on instantly available driverless vehicles? What would this mean for ancillary business, such as automakers, auto insurance, or even parking?