The Power of Network Effects: Airbnb vs. Uber


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 25, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Network Effects: Airbnb vs. Uber


The rise of the sharing economy has brought about the success of platforms like Airbnb and Uber. However, while Airbnb has thrived globally, Uber has struggled to maintain its momentum. This article aims to explore the reasons behind Airbnb's strength and Uber's weakness by examining the concept of network effects. We will delve into four key factors that contribute to the success of network effects: network clusters, intermediary exclusion and poaching, multi-homing, and network bridging. Additionally, we will provide actionable advice for entrepreneurs looking to build successful networks.

Network Effects and Airbnb:

Airbnb's model relies on the expansion of a global network to thrive. Unlike its competitors, Airbnb does not face the challenge of having small-scale rivals. The four key factors that contribute to Airbnb's success are network effects, the benefits of scale, brand recognition, and high switching costs. To build a massive network like GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), entrepreneurs should consider two strategies. Firstly, they should choose industries where they can establish strong networks, such as data networks (e.g., Google, Yelp, Waze). Secondly, they should analyze and adopt network effect strategies from past successful cases.

1. Network Clusters:

Uber's vast network is composed of overlapping clusters, which are essential for its success. On the other hand, Airbnb's strength lies in its high barriers to entry. Depending on the direction of growth, focusing on local city-based network building, like Uber, can lead to faster expansion. Entrepreneurs should conduct a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of each network tendency and determine which one aligns with their goals.

2. Intermediary Exclusion and Poaching:

While platforms like Homejoy face the risk of losing service providers to direct user requests, Airbnb has implemented a defense mechanism. By not revealing contact information or addresses until a reservation is confirmed, Airbnb prevents poaching and protects user privacy. Services that fail to implement these countermeasures or offer low-priced services are at risk of losing their networks. In the initial stages, Airbnb even capitalized on Craigslist's property listings to expand its marketplace. This demonstrates their clever strategy of leveraging their network to their advantage.

3. Multi-Homing:

Multi-homing refers to the phenomenon of simultaneously using multiple competing services. To maximize network effects, entrepreneurs should focus on building networks in various markets while diversifying their offerings. The Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba serves as an excellent example. By integrating their e-commerce platforms (Taobao, Tmall) with their payment service (Alipay), they achieved synergistic data acquisition. To achieve global network building and eliminate multi-homing, entrepreneurs must prioritize building a strong brand, which becomes a crucial consideration.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Choose an industry where you can establish a robust network and leverage network effects effectively.
  • 2. Implement strategies to prevent intermediary exclusion and poaching, safeguarding your network and user privacy.
  • 3. Pursue multi-homing by diversifying your offerings and building networks in different markets.


Understanding the power of network effects is vital for entrepreneurs seeking success in the sharing economy. By focusing on network clusters, intermediary exclusion and poaching prevention, multi-homing, and network bridging, entrepreneurs can harness the potential of their networks. Additionally, building a strong brand is essential to eliminate multi-homing tendencies. By incorporating these strategies, entrepreneurs can create successful platforms with sustainable network effects.

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