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Terminology

Across various disciplines different words are used for denoting critical mass and a set of very similar and loosely related concepts. Terms used are the startup problem, the accelerative dilemma, and the community paradox. The same concept is also referred to in a variety of contexts. In physics critical mass is the minimum amount of uranium required to sustain a nuclear reaction, at parties we speak of critical mass if there are enough people to raise the atmosphere, and in economics the concept of network effects denotes an important market reality for network-related products.

The concept of network effects, while slightly different from critical mass, is the most important concept related to it. It refers to a network or an application being more valuable if it has more users. Even more terms refer to this phenomenon, than to critical mass thresholds, such as: the bandwagon effect, winner takes it all, tippy markets, network externalities, positive consumption externalities, positive size externalities, demand-side economies of scale, and more remotely the Mattheus effect, and even the snob effect.

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