Digital Platform Ontology

We use patterns of the Unified Foundational Ontology (UFO) by Guizzardi (2005) and the service ontology UFO-S by Nardi et al. (2015) to develop our digital platform ontology. This ontology exist of a general ontology in 3 parts, and a number of ontology modules. One ontology module for each property value in our taxonomy. The ontology is developed using Visual Paradigm and the latest versions can be found here.

General Ontology

Part 1

  1. A digital platform is a service offering by a digital platform company towards a certain target platform user community consisting of target platform users .
  2. This service offering is supported by software.
  3. Based on this service offering a bounding agreement (i.e., an affiliation) between the targeted user and company can emerge for which the platform user receives a role.
  4. These users are allowed to perform actions enabled by the software.
  5. A user can change his role by performing certain user actions, and with that new role the user is allowed to perform other user actions.
  6. These users can participate in interactions with each other enabled by the software.

Part 2: user roles

Part 3: interaction

Ontology modules

Digital platforms can be categorised into different types including ‘multi-sided platform’, ‘digital marketplace’, ‘crowdfunding platform’, ‘sharing economy platform’ and ‘on-demand platform’. As there is a lack of knowledge regarding the requirements and design of these digital platform types, we developed a digital platform reference ontology based on a taxonomy. Clearer definitions and understanding of the digital platform types can improve communication, guide future research and produce useful contributions and recommendations for practitioners who are keen on learning more about the opportunities that digitalisation brings for fostering the sharing economy.

In the following we describe the ontology modules for a digital platform and the digital platform types following our taxonomy framework.

Digital Platform Taxonomy

Market sides


  1. A one-sided platform is a digital platform (which is a service offering) towards one community of target users.
  2. A user is bound to the platform via a user affiliation agreement by registration and/or subscription.


  1. A MS platform is a digital platform (which is a service offering) towards multiple sides of users.
  2. Users of both sides are bound to the platform via a user affiliation agreement. This affiliation can be registration, subscription, transaction and/or  investment.
  3. The software enabling the MS platform offering allows for interactions between the users of least two sides.



  1. A registration is a way for a user to affiliate to the platform
  2. During the registration action, the user submits personal data


  1. A subscription is a way for a user to affiliate to the platform
  2. This subscription can follow the registration action, but it is also possible to subscribe later on.
  3. A subscription includes one to multiple payments by the user


  1. A transaction is a way for users to affiliate to the platform
  2. A user can create an offering by filling in an offering description
  3. The created ‘offering on the platform’ is offered by the platform company together with the offering creator to a targeted customer community.
  4. A platform consumer initiates the transaction, becoming a customer. This transaction can be accepted by the offering creator, becoming the provider. The customer and provider belong to a different side of users.
  5. After the transaction is initiated, a delivery that at least partly fulfils the transaction can be received by the platform customer


  1. A transaction can include an investment.
  2. This investment bounds a resource claim from a capital-giving agent towards a capital-seeking agent
  3. This investment bounds a future reimbursement commitment from the capital-seeking agent towards the capital-given agent



  1. An offering on a decentralized platform is called a listing
  2. A targeted decentralized customer can perform a search through the listing descriptions
  3. This listing search can result in the creation of a transaction by that customer.


  1. During the creation of a transaction, the platform software intermediates the matching of customer and offering.


B2C, B2B and C2C

  1. In a B2C market the customer is a person, and the provider is an organisation
  2. In a B2B market both the customer and the provider are organisations
  3. In aC2C market both the customer and the provider are persons


  1. Peer users can easily alternate as producer and consumer and thus perform the same actions
  2. Peer users can automatically affiliate to the platform

Offering orientation

  1. The delivery of a product-oriented offering involves at least the delivery of a product
  2. The delivery of a result-oriented offering involves at least one provider and is called a service delivery
  3. The delivery of a user-oriented offering is both a result-oriented and product-oriented delivery

Immediate access-based

  1. After the transaction, a customer expects, and claims immediate access to the service.
  2. After the transaction, the provider is committed to provide the access to the service immediately.


  1. The product involved in the delivery is also personally used by the provider.