Digital Platforms

The goal of the Digital Business Institute is to become the premier research and education center on platform strategy. Through rigorous research, corporate partnerships, conferences and executive education, we seek to become a nexus where academic research meets the practice of managing platform businesses, such that both inform and build upon each other.

Current topics of interest include:

  • Effective strategies for platform launch and growth
  • Platform design and governance rules to create and maintain trust
  • Strategies for complementors to effectively engage with the platforms they engage in
  • Strategies to turn regular products and services into platforms
  • Regulatory concerns raised by powerful platforms

Please email us at for more information on sponsored research partnerships.

Digital Platform Faculty Fellows

Sponsored Faculty Research – Fake News

DBI Fellow Marshall Van Alstyne was awarded a grant to study Fake News. Professor Van Alstyne has received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to research and discover technology-aided social structures that minimize the adverse impact of confusion about facts while promoting free speech.

Leading the research team is Marshall Van Alstyne, Questrom Professor in Management, Professor, Information Systems, in collaboration with Nina Mazar, Professor, Marketing, Ran Canetti, Boston University Professor of Computer Science and the director of the Center for Reliable Information System and Cyber Security, and Mayank Varia, Boston University Co-Director, Center for Reliable Information Systems & Cyber Security and Associate Professor, Computing and Data Sciences.

Research Update from Professor Andrei Hagiu

When Data Creates a Competitive Advantage (and When it Doesn’t)
Andrei Hagiu was recently featured in this live, interactive HBR webinar on leveraging data to create competitive advantage.

And Andrei’s most recent article, Don’t let Platforms Commoditize Your Business was published in the June 2021 issue of HBR.

Research Articles

Marshall Van Alstyne was asked to comment on the EU Digital Markets Act concerning platform antitrust. That report is available for download here:

The EU Digital Markets Act

Luis Cabral, Justus Haucap, Geoffrey Parker, Georgios Petropoulos, Tommaso Valletti, Marshall Van Alstyne, January 2021

Over the last years, several reports highlighted the market power of very large online platforms that are gatekeeping intermediaries between businesses and consumers, and the difficulty for classic competition policy tools to deal effectively with anti-competitive practices in these platforms. In response to this, the European Commission recently published a proposal for a Digital Markets Act (DMA) to complement existing competition policy tools by means of ex-ante obligations for platforms. This report presents an independent economic opinion on the DMA, from a high-level Panel of Economic Experts, established by the JRC and based on existing economic research and evidence.

Data Enabled Learning, Network Effects and Competitive Advantage

Andrei Hagiu and Julian Wright, June 2020

We model competition between firms which improve their products through learning from customer data. We explore the implications for competitive dynamics of three new features of such learning compared to traditional learning-by-doing: (i) learning increases willingness-to-pay rather than reducing marginal cost, (ii) firms can improve their products for each customer based on their individual usage experience, (iii) products can improve while customers are still consuming them.

Should Amazon be Allowed to Sell on their own Marketplaces

Andrei Hagiu, Tat-How Teh and Julian Wright, May 2020

Proposal: A Market for Truth to Address False Ads on Social Media

Marshall Van Alstyne, April 2020

This short article proposes a “market for truth” that would allow social media platforms to take political ads, guarantee the ads are lie free, and at the same time absolve such platforms of responsibility for deciding what’s true. Using mechanism design, it causes advertisers to either internalize their negative externalities or to signal that they are untrustworthy. It also provides a business model that should make fact-checking scalable and profitable.

When Data Creates Competitive Advantage

Andrei Hagiu and Julian Wright, Jan 2020

Many executives and investors assume that it’s possible to use customer-data capabilities to gain an unbeatable competitive edge. Or so the thinking goes. More often than not, this assumption is wrong. In most instances people grossly overestimate the advantage that data confers.

Managing Multi-Sided Platforms

Asda Chintakananda, David McIntyre, Arati Srinivasan, Allan N Afuah, Kevin Boudreau, Tobias Kretschmer, Aija Elina Leiponen and Marshall Van Alstyne, August 2019

Multi-sided platforms (MSPs) have revolutionized competitive dynamics across a wide array of markets. Despite significant advances in MSP strategy research, many challenges and ambiguities about the emergence and effective management of platforms remain. This symposium brings together a panel of leading scholars at the intersection of economics, strategy, and technology management to (1) highlight recent advances in platform research, emphasizing both strengths and limitations, and (2) outline critical next steps for the burgeoning body of research on the management of multi-sided platforms.

Platforms and Blockchain will Transform Logistics

Sangeet Paul Choudary , Marshall W. Van Alstyne and Geoffrey G. Parker, June 2019

Major change is coming to the logistics and shipping industries – a transformation that promises to be even more dramatic than the move to third-party logistics a generation ago. With increasing digitization, platform-based business models will connect new players, wash away inefficient old ones, and harness the cloud.

Innovation, Openness, Platform Control

Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, August 2017

Won “Best Paper” for the Information Systems Division

Finding the Platform in Your Product

Andrei Hagiu and Elizabeth J. Altman, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017

Lays out four strategies for turning regular products or services into platforms, and a guideline for when this transformation makes sense.

Network Effects Aren’t Enough

Explains how marketplace startups can deal with four key issues: growth, trust and safety, disintermediation, and regulation.

Pipelines Platforms and the New Rules of Strategy

Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Geoffrey G. Parker, and Sangeet Paul Choudary, Harvard Business Review, April 2016

This is an HBR “Must Read” for Best of all articles 2017, Strategy V2, Innovations, Platforms & Ecosystems.

Platform Ecosystems: How Developers Invert the Firm

Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Xiaoyue Jiang, September 2016

Won “Best Paper” for 2018 and “Paper of the Profession” from Association of Information Systems in 2018