Decentralized platform ecosystems - development barriers and their implications on design approaches

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in International Design Business Management
The recent emergence of blockchain technology is empowering an evolutionary step in the design of platform ecosystems. While proprietary platforms have been dominant so far, new ecosystem structures are under development that are no longer controlled by a single entity. Instead, the aim is to decentralize the technical and organizational infrastructure with the intent to transfer agency to all actors in the ecosystem. This study investigates the challenges that Web 3.0 platforms are facing in the process of decentralization. The objective is to identify barriers and derive possible implications for new design approaches that can meet the needs in this new problem space. The current discourse focuses heavily on the technological aspects of emerging blockchain-enabled ecosystems. This study aims to contribute towards the less represented human-centered perspective on the matter. The research framework is built around constructive grounded theory and a novel approach to ecosystem research through the lens of complex adaptive systems theory. Qualitative data was collected in a single-case study format, including semi-structured in- interviews, netnography, and other available data sources. The research revealed five barriers that are currently hindering the process of decentralization. These barriers include 1) difficulties in accessing the Web 3.0 industry, 2) in-creased importance of communication between all stakeholders, 3) development of novel governance structures, 4) conflicting motivations towards the value of the project-specific token, and 5) an increased complexity and unpredictability induced by a multi-layered system’s architecture. From the findings, implications for service designers in the Web 3.0 environment were derived. The identified possible areas of contribution include the support of communication and collaboration, increasing the diversity of actors, as well as enhancing the active acknowledgment of contributions from participants in the ecosystem. The outcome of this study indicates that the development of new service design approaches could help to deconstruct the identified barriers and add to the successful growth and maturity of the Web 3.0 industry as a whole.
Eloranta, Ville
Thesis advisor
Eloranta, Ville
ecosystem, platform, decentralization, ecosystem design, service design, web3, blockchain, case study