The growth of the digital sector has led to the rapid development of multiple services that cover a wide range of daily activities. As well as the clear and huge benefits, several challenges, mostly either unknown or overlooked at the dawn of the Internet, have arisen from its ever growing popularity. After several interventions, mostly sectoral or more limited in scope and scale, on 15 December 2020, the European Commission published a double proposal for a Regulation on a Digital Markets Act (DMA) and a Regulation on a Single Market for Digital Services (DSA). The former deals with the identification of different responsibilities in the offer of services, while the latter concerns the economic imbalances and unfair business practices by the so-called “gatekeepers”.
The main challenge of the regulatory framework is to avoid penalising the high rate of innovation anddynamism that characterise this sector. Moreover, there are peculiarities specific to the digital market that authorities need to take into consideration, such as network effects, the large use of user engagement strategies and the huge amount of data involved in the supply of digital services.
Chapter 1 examines different digital market segments in order to identify the main characteristics, specific features and common trends, as well as attempting to understand if clear boundaries can effectively be identified between different market segments. The analysis points out how the last twenty years have been marked by the growing success of digital services in most sectors of the world economy. If this has led to the growth of web giants with important market quotas, at the same time, it should not be overlooked that they have also been significantly contributing to the dynamic evolution of the tech world. They have fostered rapid development and innovation, increasing market efficiency, facilitating trade, and ensuring overall sizeable benefits for citizens, businesses and public administrations alike. These trends have made it increasingly clear that digital technologies are an indispensable part of the economy and, at the same time, that they need to be regulated within a comprehensive and consistent EU-wide normative framework.