The Rise of Online Platforms and the Triumph of the Corporation


  • Koen Frenken Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University
  • Lea Fuenfschilling CIRCLE, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University



platform, corporation, governance, gig economy, sharing economy, social media


Rather than viewing online platforms as digital marketplaces, we analyze platforms as corporations and platform participants as a workforce. Online platforms perform very similar functions as any other corporation, but in different ways (applying terms and conditions as a legal framework and data, reviews, and algorithms for decentralized control) and mostly in different contexts (informal labor markets, sharing communities, social media) than traditional corporations did hitherto. The corporation perspective helps us to understand the transformative power of platforms, while at the same time shedding light on the historical continuation of the corporation as a basic institution in society.  We argue that platforms’ transformative capacity lies in their continuous development of new institutions that they impose on their workforce and their clientele, codified in terms and conditions.  It is the re-coding capacity that provides platforms the ability to continuously adapt the course of institutionalization in largely autonomous manners.


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How to Cite

Frenken, K., & Fuenfschilling, L. . (2020). The Rise of Online Platforms and the Triumph of the Corporation. Sociologica, 14(3), 101–113.