When people in the computer/Internet world use the word platform, it has multiple levels of meaning. At times they appear to be talking about hardware. Other times, it's software, and then it can be the Internet itself or a particular website or search engine. It can in fact refer to any one of these elements.

"Platforms are the playing field," explains John McDougall, a Chicago-based computer expert:

Big platforms are generally industry-wide and with an agreed upon set of standards which are developed and controlled by a standards group. In the case of the Internet, that group is the World Wide Web Consortium. Smaller platforms are also playing fields, but more specific in their range or scope. Who controls the standards or rules for these? The playing field determines who can use or who can play with the platform.[]

A platform represents an infrastructure of some kind. It is a framework on which to build an economy, a society, or a corporation. So, in the world of technology, a platform is an operating system, together with the hardware on which it runs.

Google, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and similar platforms have four main powers that constitute genuine and valuable authority:

  1. The power to set the rules of behavior

  2. The power to preserve and exploit user-generated content

  3. The power to promote and feature preferred content

  4. The power to define the types of interaction available to users

Professor Joel West, who teaches in the computer program at San Jose State, ...

Get Google Speaks: Secrets of the World's Greatest Billionaire Entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.