Super-Appification: Conglomeration in the Global Digital Economy

A new open access article by Fernando van der Vlist, Anne Helmond, Michael Dieter, and Esther Weltevrede in: New Media & Society.

Super-Appification: Conglomeration in the Global Digital Economy

“In this study, we offer a distinct, global overview of ‘super apps’, enabling comparative analysis of their characteristics and origins worldwide, and paving the way for further theorisation of this phenomenon. The process of super-appification is accompanied by different patterns and dynamics of conglomeration, as demonstrated through our analysis of 41 super apps from around the world. Super apps achieve their ‘super’ status by integrating a wide range of essential everyday services across industries and borders within constellation types. ‘Super-app constellations’, as a concept and typology, offer a comprehensive framework for understanding the conglomeration dynamics that drive super-appification in the global digital economy. Conglomeration patterns involve corporate strategies, development approaches, and international expansion strategies. We identified four distinct types of super-app constellations, each exhibiting unique patterns of conglomeration. Swiss-Army-style super apps expand their service offerings within a single app, consolidating industries previously served by separate app companies. Family apps expand through their app and company portfolios, extending services and entering new markets through subsidiaries. Host and Hub-style super apps leverage third-party developers to provide complementary services, capitalising on network effects either internally or through an external app ecosystem. This typology establishes an empirical foundation for understanding ‘super-appification’ both as a form of conglomeration in the app economy and as an app-specific form of platformisation. Unlike platformisation, which involves a single platform branching into new sectors, app conglomeration creates various distinct forms by bundling services into unique constellations, potentially as a strategy to circumvent regulations.” (2024: p. 20) “Ultimately, super-appification represents an intensified form of ‘appification’, as these apps increasingly pervade and commodify various aspects of everyday life, such as payment, insurance, grocery delivery, mobility and travel, with significant sociopolitical implications.” (2024: p. 1)

Read more: https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448231223419 (open access).

Excerpts

Typology of ‘super-app constellations’
Global countries or regions of importance for super apps: super apps in each of these service categories most frequently target these countries or regions as ‘top’ markets.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Open Science Framework (OSF) at https://doi.org/10.17605/osf.io/fetps.

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