This is a fact. They enjoy a virtual monopoly on their markets and have a considerable influence on the global economy as well as on our personal and professional lives.
Digital platforms such as Google, Amazon and Meta (formerly Facebook) are playing an increasingly central role in the economy and society. They have grown on an unprecedented scale, propelled by business models focused on capturing, generating, and processing data. They are having a massive impact on individuals and businesses, and are redefining the relationships between customers, advertisers, employees, and employers. Their economic and financial performance is remarkable. Digital platforms are the first companies to have exceeded $1 trillion in valuation, and seven of them (out of ten) are now among the world’s strongest market capitalizations: in 2022, these include Apple (number 1), Microsoft (number 2), Alphabet (Google’s parent company since 2015, number 4) and Amazon (number 5) that dominate this global ranking. Other leaders include Meta (Facebook), Tencent, and Alibaba. These companies alone are worth more than 10,000 billion dollars. Their central place in our economies has only grown stronger during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen a lot of business move online. Moreover, more than 70% of “unicorns,” those startups worth at least $1 billion, are platforms. Between 2018 and 2022, many of them, such as Uber, Airbnb, Didi Chuxing or Xiaomi have opened their capital.
How can we explain the global dominance of these powerful platforms, their near-monopoly on their markets, their insolent growth? How is it that a small number of them have come to exert such an influence on the global economy, and on our personal and professional lives? How have they come to control the flow of information, as well as a large portion of the exchange of goods and services?