Facebook and Google’s advertising platforms are out of control. That used to be a good thing. Now…not so much.
Facebook and Google’s advertising infrastructure is one of humanity’s most marvelous creations. It’s also one of its most terrifying, because, in truth, pretty much no one really understands how it works. Not Mark Zuckerberg, not Larry Page, and certainly not Russian investigator Robert Mueller, although of the bunch, it seems Mueller is the most interested in changing that fact.
“Platform” used to mean things like: A railway station waiting area. A soapbox from which one addressed the world. Or a set of positions and policies that a political organization embraced. In the NewCo universe, it means something different — but what, exactly? Paul Ford (Track Changes) takes a stab at defining the word as it has evolved in the tech-internet-sharing economy.
In Ford’s formulation, a platform is any system that handles transactions: financial transactions like buying and selling stuff, communications transactions like sending an email or a text, data transactions like saving an image or tracking an ad. When platforms work well, they lower the individual cost of these transactions the more people use them.