What is it that Uber’s platform offers that traditional cabs can’t get elsewhere? It’s mostly three things: payment infrastructure to make transactions smoother; identity infrastructure to screen out any unwanted passengers; and sensor infrastructure, present on our smartphones, which traces the location of the car and the customer in real time. This list has hardly anything to do with transport; they are the kind of peripheral activity that traditional taxi companies have always ignored.
However, with the transition to knowledge-based economy, these peripherals are no longer really peripherals – they are at the very centre of service provision. Today, any service provider, and even content provider, risks becoming hostage to the platform operator, which, by aggregating all those peripherals and streamlining the experience of using them, suddenly moves from the periphery to the centre.
—The Guardian on platform capitalism.
Basically, “platform operators”–the Ubers and Amazons and AirBnBs of the world–can make all the money while providing none of the actual goods and services, and because they’re “platforms” rather than employers, they can also slither out of a lot of regulatory requirements traditional industries have to comply with, like antidiscrimination and worker compensation.