De-Platform Yourself

A new phenomenon in the Internet age is that of “deplatforming” in which a person, organization, or movement gets booted off of an online platform.

Sometimes de-platforming happens for good reasons (a bank refusing to serve a drug cartel). Sometimes it happens for bad reasons (YouTube’s algorithm arbitrarily bans your cat videos). That’s not what I’m interested in.

I’m interested in voluntary de-platforming, and whether it might have any benefits.

I wrote recently about how systems tend to commoditize things, and why it’s a good idea to reinvent the wheel sometimes to deliver (and benefit from) new value.

Similarly, platforms tend to commoditize products and services. They are attractive because of their ease of use and distribution, but the trade for convenience (as usual) comes at a price. The platform tends make you compete harder with more people for fewer resources. It’s not hard to look around and see this.

Uber and Lyft are great for giving people a way to make money from driving. However, as the platform grows, it needs less and less pay attract and keep drivers.

Fiverr, Upwork, 99Designs, and other services are great for designers and other freelancers, but they will tend to be so competitive that they drive down asking prices for the freelancers.

Amazon.com is a wonderful marketplace for products, but the search-based model of Amazon and its vast quantity of choices will tend to make your product stand out less. You may have to compete on price, or shipping times.

These platforms are net positives for society, but they’re not always going to be the best move for you as an entrepreneur or freelancer. Establishing your own network of customers, your own brand, your own website, etc. may be much harder, but they will allow you to command a premium compared to the platform-dependent entrepreneur or freelancer.

It comes down to risk in the end. Going with a platform limits your risk, difficulty, and startup costs, but it also limits your upside. De-platforming yourself (at least in some ways) increases the costs and difficulty of doing business or promoting your project, but it may allow you to stand out more and command more value.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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