Lateral Exchange Markets: How Social Platforms Operate in a Networked Economy

Lateral exchange markets (LEMs) are sites of technologically intermediated exchange between actors occupying equivalent network positions. To develop an enriched understanding of these markets, the authors develop a more broad-based and differentiated understanding of peer-to-peer, sharing, and access-based markets. They focus on two key axes: the extent of (1) consociality and (2) platform intermediation. Drawing on these attributes, the authors theoretically deduce four ideal types—Forums, Enablers, Matchmakers, and Hubs. Each type provides value in a different way: Forums connect actors, Enablers equip actors, Matchmakers pair actors, and Hubs centralize exchange. Twenty organizational cases reveal insights into the failure, adaptation, and success of LEMs. Lateral exchange markets shift responsibility for personal and exchange security to relevant personal actors, to institutions, or to the governing algorithms of technology platforms. Extending the general proposition that sociality increasingly infuses market logics, the findings suggest a new frontier in which social resources and software platform algorithms interact as operand resources whose negative consequences (e.g., opportunism) require careful management through assurances and institutional arrangements matched to the type of LEM operation.