Understanding Information Delivery/Communications Platforms and Platform Business

One of my recent posts here on Medium had gotten me thinking about information delivery and communications platforms, and what they look like in our world.

The sole, core purpose of a society creating either an information delivery or communications platform is to enable either the sending or receipt of important information, or enabling the ability for two or more people to communicate. There are ancillary benefits such as entertainment, but at the base purpose such things were created for the above.

It can be suspected that the first cave walls were, in a sense, a communications and information delivery platform. The invention of ink and paper innovated this further (print platform), and we can trace it through history then to radio platform, landline telephone platform, (which is called the ‘PSTN’ in platforms speak), broadcast television (and later cable) platform, then cellular telephone platform and ultimately, the internet platform.

Certainly cave walls are not used in today’s platform environment but every single one of the other platforms are still in play and use today. Their core functionality, regardless of any entertainment or non-emergency usage, is to either enable people to send and receive important information, or to communicate with eachother.

Business exists on and around each platform and has robust industries that each have their own unique revenue and monetization models, purpose, processes and function. It begins with the base business of providing access (service provider, telco, etc.), and evolves to a variety of companies that rely on the platform to offer a range of products or services from there. An example is a radio station. It may not own the infrastructure that delivers its content but it is a business and entity no less of its own.

While each of the platforms exist within our world they equally have very different purposes and often, ‘access devices’ that enable people to utilize them. It can be said that all platforms enable information delivery and communications at a granular level — but that’s not entirely a truism as some do not do so in a robust or meaningful way, such as television platform. A consumer can receive information by it but not communicate, for example.

There is a very stark and specific difference in access devices and rarely have they been able to cross platforms historically in the past. Access to the landline voice calling platform requires one device, access to the cellular (mobile) voice calling platform another and so on. This creates a market for ‘device makers’ who make the things people use to access the various platforms.

The internet, by design, is unique in that it combines all of the functionality of the other five platforms in a single, seamless environment, and then does not require any one set access device to use it. Radio is slightly similar but not in the large, dynamic way that the internet is. The internet is also ‘fault resistant’ which means it is designed to maintain operation in the event of a natural disaster or other issue. In contrast, the other five platforms — with exception to radio — do not. This cuts off the critical purpose of platforms to a society and is why the U.S. government sought to create a new platform with the internet more than 20 years ago.

The internet platform for those who own and operate platforms in platform business is a better option for business as well. It is less expensive to maintain, enables larger margins and broader reach. Of course such a thing would be lucrative and desired in a platform business market.

It is here to replace the other five platforms for this reason. It will not, however, change platform business at its core or change the business, models and function information delivery and communications platform ancillary businesses. This has proven true for decades and decades in platform business and is already proving true with the internet platform now.

What does change is what (platform) and how (access). This is not untrue or unproven in general in disruptions and innovations over the course of time. Plenty of examples outside of information delivery and communications platforms demonstrate the same as well.

In addition the internet platform unlike any other platforms in the industry can go beyond traditional platform functionality to a range of new capabilities, like access control (security) and utility management among others. When you think about it, it’s an incredible invention and we are in an epic time in history — an Industrial Revolution, advent of the steam engine, invention of electricity-level innovation. Just awesome.