Is Ethereum the New iOS? Exploring the Platform Economy of Decentralized Finance
11 Pages Posted: 27 Dec 2021
Date Written: December 23, 2021
Similar to mobile operating systems, public blockchain infrastructures, such as Ethereum, represent a platform for the development of software applications. Since 2020, we observe the emergence of a rapidly evolving ecosystem of blockchain-based applications called Decentralized Finance (DeFi), which aspires to challenge traditional finance and associated business models. To explore the economic structures that constitute DeFi, we follow an interdisciplinary approach, supplementing information systems (IS) research with strategic management literature. We apply the theoretical lens of strategic groups to identify platform-specific dimensions and conceptualize DeFi as a hierarchical structured platform economy consisting of four strategic groups, namely 1) Token Management Applications, 2) Protocol Platforms, 3) Aggregation Platforms, and 4) Decentralized Financial Services Solutions. Further, we give a market overview of DeFi applications and discover archetypal attributes of the respective groups. Lastly, we present an integrated framework for the analysis of software-based platform ecosystems and derive areas for future research.
Keywords: Decentralized Finance, blockchain, platform economy, strategic groups
JEL Classification: O30; M21; G23
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