The way we transact with each other and conduct business has changed a lot in the last 10 years.

For some of us it’s hard to remember how we used to find rides or places to stay before Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb existed. Industries like hospitality, retail, transportation, and even human resources have been digitized and platformized. Though the average consumer has benefited, it’s not been all roses. Increasingly, critics have noted an imbalance in the benefits going to the creators of these platforms versus those who use their products or services.

Part of the problem is the way “internet middlemen”—platforms like Airbnb or Upwork that connect buyers and sellers directly, for a fee—are structured and funded.

Venture capitalists throw money at promising startups like there’s no tomorrow, and at first, all is well: investment dollars help companies keep costs low to attract users. More and more people on both sides of the transaction adopt the service because the costs are low and the benefits high.

But that upward trajectory can’t go on forever, and it’s only a matter of time before investors come knocking. When they do, companies tend to shift their focus from users back to the people who gave them the money to make it all happen in the first place. The pressures of profitability bring data harvesting, targeted ads, higher fees, lower compensation. Whatever it takes.

There’s clearly value in platforms—but is there a better business model?

In a new video from Futurism Media and Singularity University’s IdeaFront, we glimpse a very different future. One in which blockchain-based cooperatives replace today’s mega-corporate platform model. The middlemen are out. Users decide the values of their platforms and directly benefit from the gains of growth.

In the shadow of today’s dominant platforms, it may seem like a pipe dream, but there are already examples of successful businesses fighting the current. Will a new model catch on?

Image Credit: IdeaFront

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