Platform economy: Defining a meaningful taxonomy

Taxonomy of the Platform industry

In this article we will attempt to do what few (if any) have successfully achieved. That is to define and map the entirety of the platform economy in a meaningful and logical way.

To begin with, we’ll simply start by listing the conclusions. The taxonomy itself. Then we will dig a bit deeper and define each category a bit better, adding in examples and child categories for additional depth.

Below is a top-level taxonomy outlining the platform economy being used on this website, as of June 2020 to categorise platform oriented editorial content:

  • App Stores
  • Application Platforms
  • Communications and Collaboration Platforms
  • Computing Platforms
  • Financial Platforms
  • Gaming Platforms
  • IoT Platforms
  • Media Streaming and Content Platforms
  • Mobile, Telecoms and Infrastructure
  • Online Marketplaces
  • Operating Systems
  • Search Engines
  • Sharing Economy
  • Social Networks
  • Technology Platforms

Now we have established this top-level categories, lets drill-down a bit more into the thinking behind the groupings and definitions.

A brief description of each category and examples of companies involved in the niche are included for reference:


App stores are the type of platforms that host specific programs relevant to the operating system, or device, including other platforms. Often acting as a directory and repository for device specific software.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include Google Play, Apple’s App Store and Amazon Apps.
Child-categories belonging to App Stores include:

  • Smartphone
  • Computer
  • Browser-based
  • Internet of Things


Application platforms are based around particular functionalities. For example, Word-processing, or customer relationship management software. The variation of software sitting in this section of the platform economy is high.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include SalesForce, Zoho and Office 365.

Child-categories belonging to Application Platforms include:

  • Mobile Application Platforms
  • PaaS
  • SaaS
  • Development Tools


These particular platforms enable users to connect, communicate and effectively work together. Some are designed for specific tasks such as reviewing, or group management, whilst others concentrate on audio and visual communications.

SnapchatAdditionally, whilst not a perfect fit, crowdfunding platforms sit in with this segment of the economy as they are a form of collaboration.

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Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include WhatsApp, Snap, Slack, Zoom, Trello and the Microsoft-owned Skype.

Child-categories belonging to Communication and Collaboration Platforms include:

  • Open Messaging Platforms
  • Private Messaging Systems
  • Broadcasting Services
  • Conversational Systems
  • Collaboration


Computer platforms often provide the very basis of other platforms. They range from the services that host databases through to files and images.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, Google Analytics, and Microsoft Azure.

Child-categories belonging to Computing Platforms include:

  • Cloud Hosting
  • Data Storage
  • Delivery Networks
  • Data Services


From FinTech and FST platforms dedicated to retail and business accounting, through to investment and trading services, and on to insurance and payment gateway providers, this section of the platform economy often intersects with technology and sharing platforms, where for example, crypto currency sits.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include Citi, Raiz, PayPal, Visa, American Express and Square.

Child-categories belonging to Financial Platforms include:

  • Payment Services
  • Retail Banking
  • Investment
  • Insurance
  • Pensions
  • Other


A gaming platform business is involved in the publishing and delivery of computer, console or smartphone games.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include the likes of Nintendo, Epic Games and Blizzard Entertainment.

Child-categories belonging to Gaming Platforms include:

  • Mobile
  • Virtual Reality
  • Streaming
  • Browser
  • Arcade
  • Console
  • Television


Internet of Things (IoT) platforms are fed by data from computing devices embedded in everyday household objects such as fridges, lighting and even toasters.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include the lines of Samsung Electronics, Sony, GE and a myriad of utilities companies.

Child-categories belonging to IoT Platforms include

  • IaaS
  • M2M Platforms
  • Hardware-specific Platforms
  • Consumer Software Platforms
  • Enterprise Software Platforms


This segment includes everything from content management systems, through to streaming and archival services.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include YouTube, ByteDance’s TikTok, Netflix, Disney+ and Spotify.

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Child-categories belonging to Media Streaming and Content Platforms include:

  • Broadcast Television
  • Video Streaming
  • VOD
  • P2PTV
  • Internet Radio
  • Audio and Music
  • Game
  • Information and Data


This portion of the platform economy includes the ecosystems and infrastructure supporting platforms. They range from networking and mobile internet providers, through to the hardware device manufacturers.

Mobile Infrastructure, towerExamples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include Vodafone, Huawei Technologies, Apple, Telstra and Ericsson.

Child-categories belonging to Mobile, Telecoms and Infrastructure include:

  • Infrastructure
  • Service Providers
  • Device Manufacturers
  • Public Sector


There are a few exceptions, but as a general rule all e-commerce platforms and properties fall under this category, be they selling products themselves, or acting as the platform for others to sell.

Online MarketplacesExamples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include Amazon, Zillow, RightMove, Auto Trader,, eBay and Expedia.

Because of the massive scope and diversity of businesses operating within this portion of the platform economy, you could separate them by any number of ways. For example, you could define by industry vertical, or separately by product-type. The editorial team at Platform Executive decided to use product-type as the most definitive way to drill-down.

Therefore, child-categories belonging to Online Marketplaces include:

  • Product
  • Service
  • Rental
  • Hybrid
  • Local


An operating system is dedicated software that manages computer hardware, system resources, and provides common services for other computer programs.

Operating SystemsExamples of products operating within the portion of the industry include iOS, Windows, Android and a myriad of Unix and Linux-based operating systems such as Red Hat and Ubuntu.

Child-categories belonging to Operating Systems include:

  • Batch System
  • Multiprocessor System
  • Desktop System
  • Distributed OS
  • Clustered
  • Realtime OS
  • Handheld


A search engine is software that is designed to carry out search, which means to search databases and repositories (including the World Wide Web) in a systematic way for particular information and then return the most relevant result to the end user.

Search engine platforms in the enterprise space are often tailored to allow advanced filtering via facets.

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Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include major Internet players such as Google, Duck Duck Go and Microsoft’s Bing along with niche players such as MarkLogic on the enterprise-side and Yandex and Baidu on the local side.

Child-categories belonging to Search Engines could be organised relatively simply into two silos, Consumer and Enterprise. However, in order to decrease the vast scope of Enterprise, it is broken down into Enterprise and Specialist:

  • Consumer Search Engine
  • Enterprise Search
  • Specialist Search


Sharing economy platforms range from ride hailing apps through to delivery services and everything in between. You do not have to ‘share’ a service for it to be classified as part of the sharing economy.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include ride hailing companies such as Uber Technologies and Lyft, food delivery services such as Just Eat and Deliveroo and home-sharing apps such as Airbnb.

Sharing Economy bikesChild-categories belonging to Sharing Economy include:

  • Ride Hailing Platforms
  • Accommodation
  • Food Delivery Platforms
  • Crowdfunding
  • Co-working Platforms
  • Peer-to-Peer Transaction


Social media properties are amongst the most widely known and recognised platforms. Whether the social network is focused on friendships, or business relationships, the key to defining this this part of the economy is by understanding relationships between individuals.

Examples of businesses operating within the portion of the industry include the likes of Facebook, Facebook-owned Instagram, Twitter and professional networks such as LinkedIn and Xing.

Child-categories belonging to Social Networking include:

  • Closed platforms
  • Open Platforms
  • Professional Networking
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Review Platforms
  • Forums


This segment of the platform economy include cyber-security, the majority of AI, AR and ML platforms. Additionally, it includes cross over industries such as automotive and supply chain management.

Examples of businesses operating within this diverse portion of the industry include the likes of McAfee, Tesla, Waymo and Coinbase.

Child-categories belonging to Technology Platforms include:

  • Security
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Augmented Reality
  • Blockchain
  • Other
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