Forking, Fragmentation and Splintering

37 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2016 Last revised: 2 Mar 2019

See all articles by Timothy Simcoe

Timothy Simcoe

Boston University - Questrom School of Business; NBER

Jeremy Watson

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Date Written: October 1, 2018

Abstract

Although economic theory suggests that markets may “tip” towards a dominant platform or standard, there are many prominent examples of persistent incompatibility, inter-platform competition and standards proliferation. This paper examines the economics of forking, fragmentation and splintering in markets with network effects. We illustrate several causes of mis-coordination, as well as the tools that firms and industries use to fight it, through short cases of standardization in railroad gauges, modems, operating systems, instant messaging and Internet browsers. We conclude by discussing welfare effects of efforts to promote inter-operability.

Keywords: Forking, fragmentation, splintering, standards, platforms

JEL Classification: O31, L44, L17

Suggested Citation

Simcoe, Timothy S. and Watson, Jeremy, Forking, Fragmentation and Splintering (October 1, 2018). Boston University Questrom School of Business Research Paper No. 2862234, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2862234 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2862234

Timothy S. Simcoe (Contact Author)

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02215
United States

NBER ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jeremy Watson

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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