The Design of Online Marketplaces

Course Description

New online marketplaces are profoundly altering our social and economic interactions. They enable unprecedented levels of monitoring and control over their participants; the complexity of their underlying functions results in the platforms and their participants interacting in intricate and subtle ways; finally, many online marketplaces are reaching scales where small design changes can have a huge impact on their performance. In this course, we will: (i) look at several important online marketplaces, and highlight their unique economic and operational challenges, and (ii) develop stochastic models that provide a principled way to reason about their operations.

Course Information


This course is based on a similar course taught by Ramesh Johari at Stanford: Platform and Marketplace Design.
Another great set of related courses are Tim Roughgarden’s Algorithmic Game Theory and Mechanism Design.

There is no required textbook for the course; however, the following books are a great reference for various topics we will cover. The Cornell library has access to online versions of some of these books:


Each student should scribe 2 lectures, in groups of 2; worth 10% of grade.

Paper Reviews:

An important component of the class is reading and thinking about papers. To make sure of this, each student is expected to submit a mini-review for at least one paper each on pricing, search, reputation and additional topics. Each review should be less than a page, and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the problem the paper wants to solve?
  2. What are the main insights one gets from the paper?
  3. What are interesting/useful ways to extend the work?
  • Helpful advice on reading papers: Roughgarden, Keshav
  • Advice on reviewing: Cormode, Feamster (useful both for this course, and for academic reviews in general)


Knowledge of basic probability (at the level of ORIE 6500) and optimization (at the level of ORIE 6300). Prior exposure to microeconomics and game theory would be helpful, but is not necessary.

Note though that since the course will discuss mostly active research, with reading material drawn from recent papers, the technical level required for reading the papers may vary a lot. Send a mail to the instructor if you are concerned about having the appropriate prerequisites.


Siddhartha Banerjee
Siddhartha Banerjee
Associate Professor

Sid Banerjee is an associate professor in the School of Operations Research at Cornell, working on topics at the intersection of data-driven decision-making, market design, and algorithms for large-scale networks.