Network Effects and Open Systems: Keys to Success in Digital Innovation


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 22, 2023

3 min read


Network Effects and Open Systems: Keys to Success in Digital Innovation


In the world of digital innovation and transformation, companies must navigate the complex landscape of network effects and open systems to achieve success. This article explores the importance of first mover advantage, growing user networks, and developing complementary goods/services, using eBay and Google as case studies. By understanding these concepts and implementing actionable strategies, businesses can drive innovation, foster competition, and create value for both consumers and the industry as a whole.

First Mover Advantage and the "Lock-In" Effect:

eBay serves as a prime example of the power of first mover advantage and the "lock-in" effect. Despite facing competition from platforms with better interfaces and search engines, eBay's early market dominance created a strong network of auction bidders and sellers. This network effect made it difficult for competitors to displace eBay's position. However, eBay's failure to capitalize on first mover advantage in the Japanese market resulted in Yahoo! Japan gaining a 95% market share. The lesson here is clear: growing a user network quickly at the beginning is vital as playing catch-up may not be an option, even with an equal product/service.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Capitalize on First Mover Advantage: Identify opportunities to be the first in the market and establish a dominant position. Invest in building a robust user network early on to create a "lock-in" effect.

Subsidizing User Adoption to Get a Critical Mass:

eBay's decision to offer its service for free during the first five months was instrumental in attracting an initial base of users. By subsidizing user adoption, eBay was able to create a critical mass that fueled the growth of its platform. This strategy allowed eBay to generate word of mouth and build a community of collectors and hobbyists, further amplifying its user base.

Actionable Advice:

  • 2. Subsidize User Adoption: Consider offering free or discounted services during the initial stages to attract a critical mass of users. This can help in creating a network effect and accelerating the growth of the platform.

Development of Complementary Goods/Services:

eBay's strategy of developing complementary goods and services, such as PayPal, eBay classifieds, and StubHub, exemplifies the concept of increasing the "stickiness" of the platform. These complementary offerings not only enhance the overall user experience but also attract new users who may be interested in specific services. By expanding its ecosystem, eBay was able to retain users and foster loyalty.

Actionable Advice:

  • 3. Focus on Complementary Offerings: Identify opportunities to develop complementary goods or services that enhance the value proposition of your platform. This can increase user engagement, retention, and attract new users who may be interested in specific offerings.

The Meaning of Open and Open Systems:

Google's philosophy of open systems highlights the importance of open technology and open information. Open technology, including open source and open standards, promotes innovation, value, and freedom of choice for consumers. Google actively supports code release and adheres to accepted standards to improve the entire internet ecosystem. Open information, on the other hand, emphasizes transparency, user control, and trust-building.

Actionable Advice:

  • 4. Embrace Open Systems: Prioritize open source initiatives and adhere to accepted standards in your industry. Foster transparency, provide users with control over their information, and build trust with your user base.


In the realm of digital innovation and transformation, businesses must leverage network effects, capitalize on first mover advantage, and embrace open systems to thrive. By implementing the actionable advice provided, companies can drive growth, foster competition, and create value for their users and the industry as a whole. Remember, success lies in building robust user networks, developing complementary goods/services, and embracing openness in technology and information.

Hatch New Ideas with Glasp AI 🐣

Glasp AI allows you to hatch new ideas based on your curated content. Let's curate and create with Glasp AI :)