A network effect is a characteristic that causes a good or service to have a value to a potential customer which depends on the number of other customers who own the good or are users of the service. In other words, the number of prior adopters is a term in the value available to the next adopter.
One consequence of a network effect is that the purchase of a good by one individual indirectly benefits others who own the good — for example by purchasing a telephone a person makes other telephones more useful. This type of side-effect in a transaction is known as an externality in economics, and externalities arising from network effects are known as network externalities. The resulting bandwagon effect is an example of a positive feedback loop. […]
Network effect business examples
Stock exchanges and derivatives exchanges feature a network effect. Market liquidity is a major determinant of transaction cost in the sale or purchase of a security, as a bid-ask spread exists between the price at which a purchase can be done versus the price at which the sale of the same security can be done. [*] As the number of buyers and sellers on an exchange increases, liquidity increases, and transaction costs decrease. This then attracts a larger number of buyers and sellers to the exchange.
The network advantage of financial exchanges is apparent in the difficulty that startup exchanges have in dislodging a dominant exchange. For example, the Chicago Board of Trade has retained overwhelming dominance of trading in US Treasury Bond futures despite the startup of Eurex US trading of identical futures contracts. Similarly, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has maintained a dominance in trading of Eurobond interest rate futures despite a challenge from Euronext.Liffe. […]
[*] Niall O’-Connor should report on bid-ask spreads, not just on dollar value of matched bets, when comparing BetFair with its competitors.