The chilling effects of network externalities

Jacob Goldenberg, Barak Libai, Eitan Muller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Conventional wisdom suggests that network effects should drive faster market growth due to the bandwagon effect. However, as we show, network externalities may also create an initial slowdown effect on growth because potential customers wait for early adopters, who provide them with more utility, before they adopt. In this study, we explore the financial implications of network externalities by taking the entire network process into account. Using an agent-based as well as an aggregate-level model, and separating network effects from word of mouth, we find that network externalities have a substantial chilling effect on the net present value associated with new products. This effect may occur not only in a competitive framework, such as a competing standards scenario, but also in the absence of competition. Drawing on the collective action literature in order to relate network effects to individual consumer threshold levels, we find that the chilling effect is stronger with a small variability in the threshold distribution, and is especially affected by the process early on in the product life cycle. We also find a "hockey stick" growth pattern by empirically examining the growth of fax machines, CB radios, CD players, DVD players, and cellular services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-15
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Agent-based models
  • Contagion
  • Net present value
  • Network externalities
  • New product growth
  • Threshold levels


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