Course Description

Platform business models – including Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon -- have come to dominate the contemporary Internet. We will explore how these companies came to be so powerful, what tradeoffs we have made with their ubiquity, what alternatives either failed or could emerge, and how geopolitical and multicultural considerations do and could come into play. As with any complex, emergent phenomenon, our emphasis will be on exploration and critical thinking rather than memorization or skills development.



Professor of Record

John Jordan


Internet platforms are important aspects of today's technical, business, communications, and geopolitical environments, and students from essentially any academic background should be comfortable.

Learning Objectives

After taking this course, the students will be able to:

  • use the history of online platforms to analyze why today's winners are winning
  • critically assess the costs and benefits of the content moderation tools used in large-scale two-sided platforms
  • situate platform businesses in global, multicultural contexts
  • apply key concepts to various platforms to assess their performance, including demand-side economies of scale, network effects, barriers to entry ("moats"), and user monetization

IST 300 Spring 2021 Syllabus- John Jordan

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