The political economy of Facebook’s platformization in the mobile ecosystem: Facebook Messenger as a platform instance

Abstract

Facebook’s usage has reached a point that the platform’s infrastructural ambitions are to be taken very seriously. To understand the company’s evolution in the age of mobile media, we critically engage with the political economy of platformization. This article puts forward a conceptual framework and methodological apparatus to study Facebook’s economic growth and expanding platform boundaries in the mobile ecosystem through an analysis of the Facebook Messenger app. Through financial and institutional analysis, we examine Messenger’s business dimension and draw on platform studies and information systems research to survey its technical dimension. By retracing how Facebook, through Messenger, operationalizes platform power, this article attempts to bridge the gap between these various disciplines by demonstrating how platforms emerge and how their apps may evolve into platforms of their own, thereby gaining infrastructural properties. It is argued that Messenger functions as a ‘platform instance’ that facilitates transactions with a wide range of institutions within the boundaries of the app and far beyond.

Nieborg, D. B., & Helmond, A. (2018). The political economy of Facebook’s platformization in the mobile ecosystem: Facebook Messenger as a platform instance. Media, Culture & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443718818384


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