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. The modules in yellow are required for the development of a Sharing Platform as defined by (Frenken and Schor, 2017)

Market sides

One-sided

  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.

Multi-sided

A Multi-SidedS platform is a digital platform (which is a service offering) towards multiple sides of users. Users of all sides are bound to the platform via a user affiliation agreement. This affiliation can be by registration, subscription, a transaction and/or an investment. The software enabling the multi-sided platform allows for interactions between the users of least two sides.

  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.

Affiliation

Registration

A registration is a way for a user to affiliate to the platform, and during the registration action the user submits personal data.

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

Transaction

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

  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

Investment

  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

Centralisation

There are two fundamental pools of offering allocation models. A model of decentralized list-based offerings a certain user can choose from, and a model of centralized offerings automatically matched to a certain user by the software. But in reality, most digital platforms are on a continuum between both models. A sharing platform is decentralized and offers a simple list-based solution as the basic matching mechanism. Platform customers can choose themselves with which other users to interact by performing a search through the content. Platform customers can specify the demanded characteristics of the requested resource (e.g., rental interval). After, the platform software queries its offer database and presents the consumer an individual list of suited matches to choose from. This way, a decentralized model exercises little control for exchanges beyond matchmaking but instead leverages the resources and innovation of its population of users (Sutherland and Jarrahi, 2018).

Decentralised

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

  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.

Centralised

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

Participation

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

P2P

A P2P platform does not necessarily offer transactions, but intermediates in the interaction between its users as equal participants, also called prosumers alternating in their role as producer and consumer co-creating the value proposition (Ritter and Schanz, 2019). Peer users can be persons, but also micro-entrepreneurs (Bardhi and Eckhardt, 2012).

  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

An offer can involve a product and/or a service (Täuscher and Laudien, 2018), however, the difference of products and services is hard to make (Jacob and Ulaga, 2008). There is a continuum scale of product-oriented and result-oriented offerings (Ritter and Schanz, 2019) where product-oriented offerings are geared towards sales of products, while for result-oriented offerings the provider is selling a result or competence, offering a mix of services. An offering can be anywhere on this continuum, and the relevance of the product as a core component decreases as the offering gets closer to the result-oriented side. In the middle of this continuum are the user-oriented offerings consisting of product leasing, renting, sharing and pooling (Tukker, 2004).

  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.

Under-utilisation

The under-utilization of products comes into existence when there is excess capacity, giving the offering creator an opportunity to lend out or rent out his own goods to potential customers. Excess capacity of a product is present when the owner does not consume the product all the time. A majority of consumer goods can be understood as having excess capacity, including houses, cars, boats, houses, clothing, books, toys, appliances, tools, furniture, computers and others (Frenken and Schor, 2017). Simply said, a physical product is under-utilized when it is also used regularly used by the provider.

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