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How to Tame the Tech Giants? Blockchain and the Future of the Internet Economy

The internet was meant to be an open system with low barriers to entry and a level-playing field for entrepreneurs. Today, however, dominant platforms have generated a worrying backlash as extensive network effects, switching costs, and lock-in effects have led to the emergence of monopolistic structures in the internet economy.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet, stated that those platforms “are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors. They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent. Add to this the competitive advantage that their user data gives them and we can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last.”

Currently, regulators across the globe are thinking about how regulation can mitigate the negative side-effects these dominant platforms have on innovation, competition, and societies. In my talk, I will focus on an emergent technological solution to these problems, decentralized internet apps enabled by blockchain technology. Data of decentralized apps is not stored on servers of a single firm, but on a network of computers which are unable to read the data as they are encrypted. In essence this means that users have control over their data and are able to easily switch between internet services. For the internet economy, decentralized apps may be a way to overcome the negative effects of dominant platforms.

Johann Kranz heads the Professorship for Internet Business and Internet Services at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU). He teaches and researches in the fields of internet economics, digital transformation and business models with a focus on blockchain and sustainability. His research appeared in Information Systems Journal, Energy Policy, Journal of Service Research and numerous other renowned outlets. Johann is an active member of various associations in which he engages in responsible digitalization.



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