Cory Doctorow coined the term “enshittification” to describe how platforms like Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook decayed.

Cory Doctorow has a theory for why tech platforms are getting worse.He calls the process “enshittification.”After locking users in, Doctorow believes tech platforms deliberately worsen the user experience.

Cory Doctorow has a theory for why tech platforms seem to have been sapped of all their joy: he calls it the great “enshittification.”

The 52-year-old Canadian-British author coined the term as a means of describing the growing sense that platforms operated by Big Tech companies are decaying beyond recognition.

With billions of people beholden to them, that throws up a whole lot of problems.

The dangers of “enshittified” platforms

Platforms have a near-indispensable role in today’s digital economy.

They bring buyers and sellers together; they help people communicate from one corner of the world to another; and they make information widely available.

For Doctorow then, platforms themselves are not the issue, given the vital intermediary function they play between two sides of a market.

The issue for him is that they are now in an “enshittified” state where they are seemingly “more important than the two sides of the market they mediate between.”

“How is it that Uber is more important than the drivers and the riders? How is it that Amazon is more important than the sellers and the buyers? How is it that Facebook and Twitter are more important than publishers and readers?” he told Business Insider.

His theory for how they got there involves a multi-step process.

First, platforms play nice with potential users to reel them in. Think of how social media companies set out initially by offering free sign-ups, or how companies like Netflix grabbed consumer attention with cheap subscriptions.

Netflix.

Second, they start to lock users in. Companies like Facebook went on massive spending sprees to gobble up and consolidate the market by buying competitors like Instagram. The consequence: it becomes easier to extract more dollars and data from users.

“Once a firm has got a stranglehold on its market and it has these extra rents that it extracts from its market, it’s very hard to regulate that firm,” Doctorow said.

Then, platforms begin to turn on everyone else.

Even Apple isn’t immune

For Doctorow, a recent developer backlash against Apple over changes to its App Store — made to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act — is a perfect example of this stage of “enshittification.” Here’s the context.

The European Commission forced Apple to make changes to the way app distribution works on iPhones after ruling that the App Store acted as an unfair “gatekeeper.” Apple would only allow developers to sell apps through its digital store, and take a 30% commission.

The changes were meant to be a win for developers, but many have lamented them — going as far as calling them “hot garbage” — as Apple will still have tight control over the way apps are distributed by deciding which third-party digital stores are made available to users in the EU.

Apple App Store.

It will also charge a new “core technology fee” that means developers will have to pay about 50 euro cents “for each first annual install per year over a 1 million threshold” for their apps.

“It is absolutely shocking and really what they’re saying is we have $3 trillion and you’re just 500 million Europeans, go fuck yourself,” Doctorow said. “We are up for a scene-setting battle for the decade to come depending on what the Commission and the EU do and how Apple reacts.”

How long platforms can go on in this manner remains to be seen for Doctorow.

There is always the risk that tech firms continue to exercise power over what he terms “narrative capitalism” — the notion that carefully crafted public image campaigns can help platforms rebrand themselves.

Zuckerberg’s transformation of Facebook into Meta might qualify as one such example. The rebrand came after the company faced intense scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that led to Zuckerberg’s first appearance on Capitol Hill.

Now, with its metaverse bet ailing, the company is putting AI first. In 2023, as Meta embarked on its “year of efficiency,” Zuckerberg said AI would be its single biggest investment.

Will companies keep “enshittifying?” Doctorow thinks there’s a limit: “We understand intuitively that can’t happen forever.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

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