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Tech Industry

The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet

Marc Andreessen disentangles and examines the topic of "Internet platform" in detail.

[Title with sincere apologies to Mitch Albom and his wonderful book.]

One of the hottest of hot topics these days is the topic of Internet platforms, or platforms on the Internet. Web services APIs (application programming interfaces), web services protocols like REST and SOAP, the new Facebook platform, Amazon's web services efforts including EC2 and S3, lots of new startups talking platform (including my own company, Ning)...well, "platform" is turning into a central theme of our industry and one that a lot of people want to think about and talk about.

However, the concept of "platform" is also the focus of a swirling vortex of confusion -- lots of platform-related concepts, many of them highly technical, bleeding together; lots of people harboring various incompatible mental images of what's about to happen in our industry as a consequence of various platforms. I think this confusion is due in part to the term "platform" being overloaded and being used to mean many different things, and in part because there truly are a lot of moving parts at play that intersect in fascinating but complex ways.

This post is my attempt to disentangle and examine the topic of "Internet platform" in detail. I will go at it by identifying three distinct approaches to providing an Internet platform, and project forward on where I think each of the three approaches will go. At best, I might be able to help make a new landscape clear. At worst, hopefully I can at least provide one framework for future discussion.

Read more at Marc Andreessen's blog.