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An Introduction to Online Platforms and Their Role in the Digital Transformation

image of An Introduction to Online Platforms and Their Role in the Digital Transformation

Online platforms support so many of our daily activities that we have become dependent on them in our personal and professional lives. We rely on them to buy and sell goods and services, to find information online and to keep in touch with each other. We use them for entertainment, news, transportation, accommodation, finding jobs and employees, finding apps and for many other purposes. Online platforms have also raised new and important policy questions, but the businesses themselves can be more complex than they appear so they are not always well understood. This report contains detailed profiles of twelve of the world’s leading platform companies and derives insights from those profiles about what platforms actually do, how they do it, and why they succeed financially. For example, the report finds that although platforms tend to have a number of economic characteristics in common, they also vary so greatly that they cannot be compartmentalised into just a few categories, let alone a single sector. Moreover, they do not all succeed for the same reasons. In addition, although the major Chinese platforms still have a low profile within the OECD, they are in the process of expanding globally and deserve more attention.

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Insights from the profiles

This chapter presents a variety of insights drawn from the company profiles in Annex A. These insights range from basic points about how different the platforms are from each other in ways including functionality, size, profitability and labour intensity, to observations about the factors that drove their success, to perspectives on the scale, scope and future of the big Chinese platforms.

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