Alternative forms of platforms in ridesharing

Services like Uber and Lyft are the dominant platforms when it comes to getting a ride from A to B. Recently there has been a movement to delete the Uber app, driven the companies actions in relation to president Trump’s so called Muslim ban. This has benefited Lyft, but also drawn attention to other alternatives. These alternatives use platform thinking not only to optimize the matching of drivers and customers, but also to restructure the way value is shared.

Why is this important?

Different forms of platforms lead to different impacts. Lyft and Uber operate as companies seeking growth and maximizing value for their shareholders. This leads them to focus on scaling and increasing efficiency. On the other hand, locally based platform cooperatives, such as Denver-based Green Taxi Cooperative, try to grow to a sustainable size and share the profits among workers and users of the platform. Green Taxi Cooperative was born as a reaction to Uber by the local taxi industry and could be seen as an example of a counter trend to global winner-takes-all platforms.

La’Zooz, on the other hand, utilizes the decentralization enabled by blockchain and is an example of a distributed, decentralized organization owned by its users. Libre Taxi is an open-source app freely implementable by anyone. What is noteworthy in these decentralized alternatives is that they can cater for situations where companies like Uber have no interest, such as ridesharing in Siberia.

Things to keep an eye on

The #DeleteUber issue is an interesting example of the direct power of consumers in platforms. The question that remains to be seen is whether these kinds of movements have any actual impact, or does the ease of use make users forget about the behaviour of the platform company. The emergence of platform cooperatives and the adoption of blockchain-based services will undoubtedly change the forms of platforms. Also it is interesting how complex services can already be built on top of other platforms (Libre Taxi is built on top of messaging service Telegram).

Selected articles and websites

#DeleteUber reportedly led 200,000 people to delete their accounts
Denver Taxi Drivers Are Turning Uber’s Disruption on Its Head
Green Taxi Cooperative: Building an alternative to the corporate “Sharing Economy”
La’Zooz: The Decentralized, Crypto-Alternative to Uber
La’Zooz website
LibreTaxi website
Uber-like app in no time with JavaScript and secret sauce

Mikko Dufva

Research Scientist VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
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Hyperledger and open blockchain

Why is this important?

Blockchain can be used for many services in platforms, such as for distributed and secure digital rights management or payments, ensuring identity or making smart, self-actualising contracts. While it is currently being used mainly for digital currencies such as bitcoin, it is increasingly being used in other areas. In order to enable more wide and open use and seamless cross-industry interaction between different blockchain-based services, Linux foundation launched an open-source project called Hyperledger. The goal is to create a common infrastructure and standard regarding membership management, blockchain technology implementation, transactions and the blockchain code for writing e.g. smart contracts. The project is already backed by many major players, such as IBM, Intel and Accenture.

Things to keep an eye on

Hyperledger aims to define the underlying frame for ensuring interoperability and transparency of blockchain technologies. While there is an increasing number of organisations backing the project, it is interesting to see what kinds of services and applications will eventually be built on top of the common framework. Collaboration or cooperation between other general implementations of blockchain such as Ethereum are also something to keep an eye on.

Selected articles and websites

How the blockchain will radically transform the economy
Introduction to Hyperledger; Why open Blockchain is critical
Hyperledger vs. Ethereum: Yes? No? Maybe?
4 reasons why entrepreneurs should build blockchain companies
Deloitte Survey Results on Blockchain Across Industries

Mikko Dufva

Research Scientist VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
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