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Threshold

The first conception of critical mass we are going to discuss is that of a simple threshold. That is; the minimum number of users required for an application to display (sufficient) network-effects. It is the most minimalistic of the concepts under discussion, as it does not include any notion of runaway growth or relapse, nor applies to things other than the application itself, such as the user-base attained by competing applications.

This threshold can be pictured as a portal that an application has to move through before it is of any value to newly arriving users. Alternatively, the minimum number of other people that should be using an application can be imagined as a necessary feature of the application (for getting others on board).

In relation to this latter picture, Jacob Goldenberg has even considered network-effects to be a constraint, rather than something which adds value to an application, and can help spur its adoption-rate. In his model the value of the product is assumed to be fixed, while network effects prevent adoption before a threshold of users is met. Though this way of putting things is rather artificial and does not acknowledge the positive value derived from the network.

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