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Hidden Markets: Designing Efficient but Simple Electronic Markets

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The Internet has allowed electronic markets like eBay or Amazon to become ubiquitous. However, new technologies are continuously enabling new kinds of markets, often in domains where users might find monetary transactions unnatural or where they might not expect a market at all. While these new markets can increase efficiency, they are also often unnatural or complex such that individuals may not have an easy time interacting with them. In this talk, I will describe my research agenda on “Hidden Market Design,” a new paradigm with the goal to design efficient but simple markets by hiding the market’s complexities from its users.

To illustrate this idea, I present a detailed case study on the design and analysis of a hidden peer-to-peer backup market. I designed and implemented this market in concert with a user interface (UI) that hides the underlying complexities, while maintaining the market’s functionality. Using a live demo of the actual system, I illustrate the important connection between UI design and market design. The main theoretical result is an equilibrium existence and uniqueness theorem, which also holds if a certain percentage of the user population is unresponsive to prices. In closing, I will briefly present an overview of three of my other market design projects on selfishness and altruism in P2P networks, on work accounting mechanisms, and on market user interface design.

This talk is part of the Microsoft Research Cambridge, public talks series.

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