The Internet as a 18th-century Post Office

Last month I finished reading China’s Mobile Economy which described China’s emerging internet eco-system mostly among Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba (BAT). What struck me from the book is how internet platform businesses are using their category dominance to expand into adjacent services. The internet today might be best thought of as a number of category verticals: search (Google / Baidu), social (Facebook / Tencent), e-commerce (Amazon / Alibaba), entertainment (Netflix / Tencent), transport (Uber / Grab / Lyft), payments (paypal / mastercard, visa) etc. For instance, Alibaba-owned Ant Financial is using data from its consumer e-commerce business to underwrite new retail loans to cunsumers. Grab is trying to expand its transportation platform into payments through existing relationship with customers. Tencent is using its WeChat chat platform to expand into online stores and payments. In each case a direct relationship to the end consumer (B2C) is being leveraged to both dominate a category and attempt to expand into new adjacent categories.

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