Platform Capitalism is the latest from Nick Srnicek, one of the two authors behind the excellent Inventing the Future, an essay about politics, automation and basic income. Platform Capitalism, however, focuses on how the internet has shaped a new business model: the platform.

Ever since the dot com boom of the late nineties, and especially since the 2008 economic crash, the way businesses operate on the web has matured significantly. With the development of various technologies and with the emergence of the platform; of sites like Facebook, and apps like Uber, the book asserts that the most valuable commodity for 21st century businesses is data. Data can be harvested, processed, used and sold, and because users do not pay to use these services, their data is easily accessed because they give it away freely. Due to the lack of profitability of this business model, Srnicek predicts that over time many existing platform-based business will fail, giving way to a small number of market leaders serving the richest in society.

Platform Capitalism is a fascinating and unique look at the so-called “gig economy”, which often promises to usher in a new entrepreneurial era of flexible workers, but whose reality is likely to be significantly more grim. With more people being pushed into precarious employment, and fewer rights for workers, this new economy could spell disaster for the poorest workers.

The book asserts that the most valuable business commodity of the 21st century is data, which can be mined and processed, and used to improve advertising or sold.

Finally, Platform Capitalism looks at how we might take the idea of the platform into public ownership, and develop tools which are operated by and for the people.

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