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📄Working Paper │ 🔓Open Access

The Technicity of Platform Governance:
Structure and Evolution of Facebook’s APIs

📂History and Evolution of Facebook Platform Researchers, policymakers, and competition and regulation authorities worldwide recognise application programming interfaces (APIs) for powering the digital economy and driving processes of datafication and platformisation. However, it is unclear how APIs tie into the power of, and governance by, large digital platforms. This article traces the relationality between Facebook’s APIs, platform governance, and data strategy based on an empirical and evolutionary analysis. It examines a large corpus of (archived) developer pages and API reference documentation to determine the technicity of platform governance – the technical dimension and dynamics of how and what platforms like Facebook seek to govern. It traces how Facebook Platform evolved into a complex layered and interconnected governance arrangement, wherein technical API specifications serve to enforce (changes to) platform policy and (data) strategy. Finally, the article discusses the significance of this technicity in specifying the material conditions for app and business development ‘on top of’ platforms and for maintaining infrastructural and evolutive power over their ecosystems.

📋 ✍Cite

📋Cite (APA) van der Vlist, F. N., Helmond, A., Burkhardt, M., & Seitz, T. (2021, July). The Technicity of Platform Governance: Structure and Evolution of Facebook’s APIs. In CRC ‘Media of Cooperation’ Working Paper Series No. 20. Siegen, DE: Collaborative Research Centre ‘Media of Cooperation’, University of Siegen. DOI: 10.25819/ubsi/9951.
🔗Link (DOI)

Kind Working Paper Series; Working Paper
Author F. N. van der Vlist; A. Helmond; M. Burkhardt; T. Seitz
Designer F. N. van der Vlist
Publication Date 2021, July 23
Journal CRC ‘Media of Cooperation’ Working Paper Series
Issue 20
Pages 1–25 (25)
Publisher Collaborative Research Centre ‘Media of Cooperation’ (Siegen, Germany)
Identifier 10.25819/ubsi/9951 [self]; urn:nbn:de:hbz:467-19380 [self]; 2567-2509 [part of]; 2567-2517 [part of]; 262513311 [funded by]; 275-45-009 [funded by]; [funded by]; 10.1177/20563051221086228 [version of]
License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Data Availability The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Open Science Framework (OSF) at Additionally, PyCatFlow (a Python package for visualizing categorical time series data used to create Figures 4 and 5) is available at


🖇Attached Name 🕓Date Modified ↧ Kind Access
Seeing the Forest for the Trees Diagrams 2021-09 📊Infographics 🔓Open Access
Platform and App Histories 2021-07-01 📄 📗Book Section 🔒Closed
Historical Facebook Platform ‘Boundary Resources’ for Application Development, 2006–2020 2021-06-12 🗄Research Data 🔓Open Access
The Evolution of Facebook’s Graph API 2020-10-05 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🔓Open Access
📌 Center for Digital Methodologies Tools 2020-01 🔧Research Tools 🌍Public
📌 Social Media and Platform Historiography 2019-11-06 📄 🔍Research Article 🔓Open Access
📌 Facebook’s Evolution 2019-05-01 📄 🔍Research Article 🔓Open Access
Historical Facebook Platform ‘Boundary Resources’, 2006–2018 2018-12-07 🗄Research Data 🔓Open Access
The Political Economy of Social Data 2017-07-28 📄 🔍Conference Proceeding 🔒Closed