Is Social Media a Platform?

This subject came to mind as I read this article by John C. Dvorak. He puts it that Facebook and Twitter are publishers and not platforms. In the the last show, @jonobacon referred to one of these as a “platform”, so I thought it worth discussion here.

According to The Book Of Knowledge a platform, regarding to computing, is described as "the environment in which a piece of software is executed. It may be the hardware or the operating system (OS), even a web browser and associated application programming interfaces, or other underlying software, as long as the program code is executed with it. Computing platforms have different abstraction levels, including a computer architecture, an OS, or runtime libraries.[2] A computing platform is the stage on which computer programs can run.

A platform can be seen both as a constraint on the software development process, in that different platforms provide different functionality and restrictions; and as an assistance to the development process, in that they provide low-level functionality ready-made. For example, an OS may be a platform that abstracts the underlying differences in hardware and provides a generic command for saving files or accessing the network."

Technopedia defines it as "A platform is a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed.

In personal computing, a platform is the basic hardware (computer) and software (operating system) on which software applications can be run. Computers use specific central processing units (CPUs) that are designed to run specific machine language code. In order for the computer to run software applications, the applications must be in that CPU’s binary-coded machine language. Thus, historically, application programs written for one platform would not work on a different platform."

So, is this a case of an evolution of the meaning of a word or the misapplication of a word?


Are we talking about Facebook and Twitter as companies or as products? The answer might be different depending on the answer, after all.

I think it’s entirely possible that the companies are publishers (they make your content available as long as they believe it fits the image they wish to present and is making them money) and the products are platforms (they’re technological endpoints that other products can–usually, assuming you follow their rules and accept any changes–build on).

Arguably, you can’t have a publisher without a platform, since then they’d have no way of publishing. That platform might be a movable type printing press and a bunch of newsies running loose in the street or it might be a series of APIs, but it’s still a platform.

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In my opinion both Facebook and Twitter are platforms as is the Bad Voltage website.

We, and they, provide a route for people to express their views. We are not a publisher, neither are Facebook and Twitter. Of course there is moderation in place and because this site is small you know who we are: Jono, Stuart, Joe and myself. Twitter.and Facebook are just.bigger.

I am proud to say moderation is minimal as this is a.great community to be part of.

I’m a bit wary of calling social media a “platform”. Unless it is in accord with Oxford Dictionary in defining it as “A shoe with very thick soles.”

My brother had some platform shoes. He didn’t like that I was taller than he. Could it be that it is the rage inside Facebook? Are social media companies staffed by vertically challenged people? :grin:

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