92 votes

‘Enshittification’ is coming for absolutely everything

37 comments

  1. [2]
    douchebag
    (edited )
    Link
    Free link: https://archive.is/sTAEE By Cory Doctorow: This is just the first paragraph of a most excellent essay that I felt is very insightful.

    Free link: https://archive.is/sTAEE

    By Cory Doctorow:

    Last year, I coined the term “enshittification” to describe the way that platforms decay. That obscene little word did big numbers; it really hit the zeitgeist.
    The American Dialect Society made it its Word of the Year for 2023 (which, I suppose, means that now I’m definitely getting a poop emoji on my tombstone).
    So what’s enshittification and why did it catch fire? It’s my theory explaining how the internet was colonised by platforms, why all those platforms are degrading so quickly and thoroughly, why it matters and what we can do about it. We’re all living through a great enshittening, in which the services that matter to us, that we rely on, are turning into giant piles of shit. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralising. It’s even terrifying.
    I think that the enshittification framework goes a long way to explaining it, moving us out of the mysterious realm of the “great forces of history”, and into the material world of specific decisions made by real people; decisions we can reverse and people whose names and pitchfork sizes we can learn.
    Enshittification names the problem and proposes a solution. It’s not just a way to say “things are getting worse”, though, of course, it’s fine with me if you want to use it that way. (It’s an English word. We don’t have ein Rat für englische Rechtschreibung. English is a free-for-all. Go nuts, meine Kerle.) But in case you want to be more precise, let’s examine how enshittification works. It’s a three-stage process: first, platforms are good to their users. Then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers. Finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, there is a fourth stage: they die.

    This is just the first paragraph of a most excellent essay that I felt is very insightful.

    55 votes
    1. post_below
      Link Parent
      Thanks for posting, great article. I agree with him that we're seeing positive moves from regulators, but there's a lot more enshittification still to come.

      Thanks for posting, great article.

      I agree with him that we're seeing positive moves from regulators, but there's a lot more enshittification still to come.

      13 votes
  2. [4]
    Tiraon
    Link
    Of course it is. The whole and singular point of enough of global economic system is growth. Ceaseless growth in a finite system. Putting a bottom on how things can get worse would help....

    Of course it is. The whole and singular point of enough of global economic system is growth. Ceaseless growth in a finite system.

    Putting a bottom on how things can get worse would help. Regulations are one possible way to doing that of course.

    Not accepting the worsened conditions would be other. In the climate we have now there will always be obstacles to that of course but most people do not even try. It is possible to stop using something when it gets worse and if it is not possible to do that it is always possible to minimize the use. There will just be some sacrifice but there are only so many directions from which a change can come.

    I consider the worst horror I have ever seen the Fifty million merits of Black Mirror but if you take it metaphorically enough we have been there for a while. There is a guy that doing meaningless work that just snaps at a cleaner with "I am paying to be here". There are countess worthless garbage entertainment shows. There is a choice between unfulfilling work and something that has other costs.

    28 votes
    1. [3]
      Blakdragon
      Link Parent
      There should be a trophy for winning capitalism. Like, hey, you made 1 billion dollars! Your personal net worth is 100 million dollars! You've won, congratulations! You can keep that money, but...

      Ceaseless growth in a finite system

      There should be a trophy for winning capitalism. Like, hey, you made 1 billion dollars! Your personal net worth is 100 million dollars! You've won, congratulations! You can keep that money, but you don't get to keep any more than that. It goes back into the communal pot now. Because literally no one works a hundred thousand times harder than anyone else, so you're no longer contributing, you're just gaming the system.

      30 votes
      1. raze2012
        Link Parent
        I suppose the big loophole here is similar to a lot of global company loopholes: They make 100m in the US and then they decide to emmigrate somewhere else, or emmigrate their company in some way...

        I suppose the big loophole here is similar to a lot of global company loopholes: They make 100m in the US and then they decide to emmigrate somewhere else, or emmigrate their company in some way (which some already do for tax purposes).

        It'll probably never happen, but labor floors probably scale better here. If you really believe you work 100k times harder than your lowest rung, pay that. so for 100m that goes to 10k (which is below most minimum wages, so there'd be a separate floor to capture that), you get a billlion and now everyone's making 100k minimum. So the CEO either pays their janitors very well, or they circulate their money back into society to eep their own wages under whatever cap they deem.

        Numbers can be adjusted and I already see other loopholes, but the basis is there.

        9 votes
      2. Minty
        Link Parent
        Someone would make online leaderboards where they'd still count "how much they would have" so that wouldn't stop the chase & exploitation, but yeah, at least the actual money would loop back.

        You can keep that money, but you don't get to keep any more than that. It goes back into the communal pot now.

        Someone would make online leaderboards where they'd still count "how much they would have" so that wouldn't stop the chase & exploitation, but yeah, at least the actual money would loop back.

        2 votes
  3. [2]
    elight
    Link
    To quote Gibson, "The future is already here--it's just not very unevenly distributed." Most (all?) things are a race to the bottom. Maximum profits for minimum cost. Even brains work that way: we...

    To quote Gibson, "The future is already here--it's just not very unevenly distributed."

    Most (all?) things are a race to the bottom. Maximum profits for minimum cost. Even brains work that way: we seek shortcuts in our thinking to conserve energy.

    "Enshitification" is like that: extract maximum value from all sources with the addition of removing ethics as the next evolution to increase value. It's awful but it is also perversely logical.

    20 votes
    1. Tiraon
      Link Parent
      Perversely should be the absolute main word here. It is only logical at the local level, both spatial and temporal and it only works because the society as a whole allows these entities to dump...

      It's awful but it is also perversely logical.

      Perversely should be the absolute main word here. It is only logical at the local level, both spatial and temporal and it only works because the society as a whole allows these entities to dump their cost on someone else. Garbage, bad working conditions, environmental changes, social changes and more. If they actually had to be neutral on all the costs, the whole world would change overnight.

      And these costs are long term and they accumulate and due to globalization that someone else is effectively everyone.

      5 votes
  4. [12]
    Moogles
    Link
    I just noticed that it’s en-shitification and no e-shitification. That said, I feel like this is an era of shitification and it’s not limited to the digital space.

    I just noticed that it’s en-shitification and no e-shitification.

    That said, I feel like this is an era of shitification and it’s not limited to the digital space.

    8 votes
    1. [11]
      douchebag
      Link Parent
      Definitely not limited to the digital space. Services: Trying to reach a government office? Too bad, office hours are Mon-Thu 9-11:30 am. Call again next week. Or worse: your call just hangs up...

      Definitely not limited to the digital space.

      • Services: Trying to reach a government office? Too bad, office hours are Mon-Thu 9-11:30 am. Call again next week. Or worse: your call just hangs up without even ringing through to anyone, even though you've called during the stated office hours.

      • Physical goods: Ordered a new branded vacuum cleaner as replacement for your 20 year old model? Have fun binning it in 2 years, exactly after the warranty period ends.

      • Mix of physical goods and services: New dishwasher? Better register it online and have it connected to wifi to initialize it. Don't like that? Too bad. Also, we don't take returns, so deal with it.

      • Product features: You thought buttons and knobs in cars were convenient? Think again! It's way better to fidget with a touchscreen for five minutes and provoke an accident at 120 km/h. At least, that's what our general management decided. Because it saves us a buck on purchasing costs and makes the assembly line more efficient. Don't like it? Fuck you. And don't forget to pay for the seat warmer subscription, you cheapskate.

      These are all examples of things I've experienced myself within the past 2-3 years. It's gotten especially bad since about that time period. And it seems it's just getting worse and worse. It's like everyone's in a competition to see who can screw over the customer the most. It's maddening.

      42 votes
      1. [4]
        raze2012
        Link Parent
        I'll also add in my pet peeve of TV's. You cannot buy a new "dumb TV" anymore. It really wants to hook into the internet (and for what else but to serve adds and grab user telemetry), and the...

        I'll also add in my pet peeve of TV's. You cannot buy a new "dumb TV" anymore. It really wants to hook into the internet (and for what else but to serve adds and grab user telemetry), and the software is dreadfully laggy for the age of tech we live in. I never thought I'd compare input latency of a 2024 OLED TV to a cheap early 2000's DvD player, but here you go. I'd rather just use my console or set top box for anything that isn't very casual youtube viewing (which I mostly queue through my phone, because it's also faster than navigating the TV menus).

        I've even heard stories in other places in the net (nothing universally accepted, though) of some TV's being refused wifi connection, but then after setup finding some neighbor's unsecured SSID and hooking into that behind the scenes.

        25 votes
        1. [2]
          tigerhai
          Link Parent
          I have a 10 year old dumb TV that has been great but the backlight failed on it last year. I did some bench testing and narrowed it down to the LED strips, which requires removing the actual...

          I have a 10 year old dumb TV that has been great but the backlight failed on it last year. I did some bench testing and narrowed it down to the LED strips, which requires removing the actual screen from its support, something I wasn’t confident I could do without breaking the screen. Ultimately I found an electronics repair guy working out of his garage and he did the repair for me for around $300.

          In the meantime I had taken a look at the market and yep, your only options are absolute garbage quality from the in-house Walmart brand or digital signage for thousands of dollars. Literally no reasonably priced decent quality consumer options whatsoever.

          I’ll take my dumb TV to the grave with me.

          8 votes
          1. nukeman
            Link Parent
            Even the digital signage these days is starting to have smart features (easier for the store operator to control content from a laptop or smartphone). Most projectors are still “dumb”, but can get...

            Even the digital signage these days is starting to have smart features (easier for the store operator to control content from a laptop or smartphone). Most projectors are still “dumb”, but can get very expensive very quick, and have worse latency for things like gaming.

            3 votes
        2. douchebag
          Link Parent
          Yes. The lag is incredible. We binned our new TV after two months. The screen size was great, as was everything else, but the lag was unbearable. Literal piece of garbage.

          Yes. The lag is incredible. We binned our new TV after two months.

          The screen size was great, as was everything else, but the lag was unbearable. Literal piece of garbage.

          7 votes
      2. Protected
        Link Parent
        Some carmakers decided to bring back buttons last year and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the sort of thing we end up having EU legislation about. I agree with your list in general though.

        Some carmakers decided to bring back buttons last year and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the sort of thing we end up having EU legislation about. I agree with your list in general though.

        20 votes
      3. [3]
        Khue
        Link Parent
        Literally had a 12 year old refrigerator with nothing wrong with it but I wanted some newer features. I bought a new one in 2020. The freezer section's defroster broke and now every three months I...

        Literally had a 12 year old refrigerator with nothing wrong with it but I wanted some newer features. I bought a new one in 2020. The freezer section's defroster broke and now every three months I have to take a heat gun to it and melt the ice build up or it sounds like a DC10. I already spent 400 bucks for some dip shit to replace the fan unnecessarily. I could go buy YET ANOTHER REFRIGERATOR... But that seems so wasteful. I'm so pissed off. Everything is garbage now.

        9 votes
        1. trim
          Link Parent
          Had to replace a 15 year old dishwasher recently. It had a good run. The new one from the same line of the same manufacturer does not inspire confidence that it will be equally long lived. I also...

          Had to replace a 15 year old dishwasher recently. It had a good run. The new one from the same line of the same manufacturer does not inspire confidence that it will be equally long lived.

          I also have a 15 year old freezer repaired with duck tape, a 12 year old washing machine with a drip and a broken door, and a 15 year old fridge where all the plastic door bits cracked (egg storage etc.)

          I found that the freezer drawers cracked, and it would have cost me more than a new freezer to get 3 replacement drawers. So I duck taped them, and they're going strong 5 years later.

          All of these appliances, despite my descriptions of them, have actually lasted a good long time. But they're really all near the end of their life and I think I'll be lucky to get 5 years each out of any replacements honestly.

          Bah

          2 votes
        2. BeardyHat
          Link Parent
          Have you checked your drip line? I had ice building up in the bottom of my freezer, melting and leaking all over the floor. I checked the drip line (I found mine in the back, underneath, behind a...

          Have you checked your drip line? I had ice building up in the bottom of my freezer, melting and leaking all over the floor. I checked the drip line (I found mine in the back, underneath, behind a cardboard screen), unmounted it and flushed it, as it was blocked with orange mold. After that cleaning, everything is working flawlessly again.

          1 vote
      4. Moogles
        Link Parent
        I just saw a post today about game dev layoffs. Gaming seems like such a recession proof industry. I think companies being measured solely on their ability to profit is creating a real drain on...

        I just saw a post today about game dev layoffs. Gaming seems like such a recession proof industry.

        I think companies being measured solely on their ability to profit is creating a real drain on our ability to progress, and we’ve reached the point where there’s no runway left anymore for new advanced towards quality of life.

        I really think if you’re a company seeking any outside investment you have to also be measured by: are you of value to your community, are your employees happy and do they have ownership rights in the business and are your customers happy with what you provide? And if a business fails on that criteria it’s either blocked or restricted on seeking outside investment.

        It might seem scary to have to measure that. But honestly I think that’s pretty easy to do, the issue is that any metric I could put out I guarantee most business will fail to meet it.

        3 votes
      5. patience_limited
        Link Parent
        The key part there is "last 2 or 3 years". We've got a pandemic, significantly different labor force composition, major changes in energy, materials, and transport availability, wars, governments...

        The key part there is "last 2 or 3 years". We've got a pandemic, significantly different labor force composition, major changes in energy, materials, and transport availability, wars, governments and corporations struggling to make their balance sheets look right in the face of austerity, inflation, stakeholder demands...

        All these factors just accelerated the pace at which things are going to 💩 in the absence of adequate regulatory regimes.

        2 votes
  5. [5]
    BitsMcBytes
    Link
    Enshittification feels like a term to perpetuate the grift that everything is bad or turning bad, and that any departure from the familiar is just a worse remix of the status quo.

    Enshittification feels like a term to perpetuate the grift that everything is bad or turning bad, and that any departure from the familiar is just a worse remix of the status quo.

    5 votes
    1. flalwess
      Link Parent
      The article actually ends on quite an optimistic note!

      The article actually ends on quite an optimistic note!

      17 votes
    2. [3]
      balooga
      Link Parent
      Not sure I understand what you’re saying here… what makes that a grift?

      Not sure I understand what you’re saying here… what makes that a grift?

      11 votes
      1. [2]
        BitsMcBytes
        Link Parent
        It's a money making scheme.

        It's a money making scheme.

        1. Soggy
          Link Parent
          You just described "grift" without actually explaining your thoughts.

          You just described "grift" without actually explaining your thoughts.

          9 votes
  6. [4]
    Octofox
    Link
    Enshitification seems to only really affect free or unsustainable services. It’s the end of the line for “we will grow first and work out a profit model later” There are quite a lot of things...

    Enshitification seems to only really affect free or unsustainable services. It’s the end of the line for “we will grow first and work out a profit model later”

    There are quite a lot of things which have always been sustainable from the start which have only got better over the years. Some personal examples I use being Steam, Google Drive/docs, and iOS.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      douchebag
      Link Parent
      Fully disagree. It's been seeping into every service and product type from what I can see. Sustainable or not.

      Enshitification seems to only really affect free or unsustainable services.

      Fully disagree. It's been seeping into every service and product type from what I can see. Sustainable or not.

      19 votes
    2. semsevfor
      Link Parent
      Steam doesn't really fit into this discussion though since they are a private company, not beholden to shareholders, and do whatever they want. They aren't chasing that infinite unsustainable...

      Steam doesn't really fit into this discussion though since they are a private company, not beholden to shareholders, and do whatever they want. They aren't chasing that infinite unsustainable growth, that's why they are still the king and likely won't be dethroned as long as Gaben is alive and his vision persists for the company

      7 votes
  7. [3]
    UP8
    Link
    I am wondering if we ever hear the word “enshittification” from executives, investors, etc. In my mind the scenario is related to the scenario described in...

    I am wondering if we ever hear the word “enshittification” from executives, investors, etc.

    In my mind the scenario is related to the scenario described in

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Innovator%27s_Dilemma

    in that is it could be the end of dominant market participants. I am also wondering if it has something to do with the cycle of how we have gone through so many communications and ‘chat’ programs that seems to be driven not by the software getting better over time but by maintainance seeming to stop for older software so in 2008 we are saying “Use Skype, it is like Paltalk used to be when Paltalk worked” and then we changed “Skype” for something else and did it again.

    5 votes
    1. balooga
      Link Parent
      Now that we have a term to label the phenomenon, I’m hopeful we’ll start to see companies taking public stances against it. Even if they don’t actually use the word, because professionalism and...

      Now that we have a term to label the phenomenon, I’m hopeful we’ll start to see companies taking public stances against it. Even if they don’t actually use the word, because professionalism and vulgar language or whatever.

      Here’s what I want: SaaS companies that commit to NOT CHANGING their services in significant ways over time. Resist the urge to do UI refreshes. Don’t add new features if they’re not directly related to the core functionality of the tool. Never take away existing functionality. If you have price tiers, freeze them permanently (with reasonable caveats about keeping up with inflation, etc.). Focus all of your engineering effort on improving security, performance, and reliability… not growth and conversions and engagement. Be satisfied with slow and steady.

      I want to sign up for a service and have confidence that it’s not going to transform into something completely different in two years. I’m so over the bait-and-switch. I’m ready to see some companies pledge to just, you know, not do that.

      5 votes
    2. nukeman
      Link Parent
      Maybe from some investors (of the slow, stable growth/dividends variety), but I suspect most investors and executives are thinking of this sort of stuff as “value creation”.

      Maybe from some investors (of the slow, stable growth/dividends variety), but I suspect most investors and executives are thinking of this sort of stuff as “value creation”.

  8. [5]
    g33kphr33k
    Link
    It'll not come for private companies though. Public ones answer to shareholders who are all pushing for their payouts.

    It'll not come for private companies though. Public ones answer to shareholders who are all pushing for their payouts.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      DeaconBlue
      Link Parent
      Twitter and Reddit are both private companies and are both pretty high on any list regarding the "enshittification" term.

      Twitter and Reddit are both private companies and are both pretty high on any list regarding the "enshittification" term.

      28 votes
      1. [3]
        ACEmat
        Link Parent
        Well Reddit is trying to go Public, and Twitter is now owned by Musk. That second one is kind of unique but speaks for itself.

        Well Reddit is trying to go Public, and Twitter is now owned by Musk. That second one is kind of unique but speaks for itself.

        8 votes
        1. [2]
          DeaconBlue
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I just meant that private companies are not exempt from "pushing for their payouts"

          Yeah, I just meant that private companies are not exempt from "pushing for their payouts"

          11 votes
          1. trim
            Link Parent
            Anything that takes in Vulture Capital funding. One day those vultures are going to want their profit, then you get the leveraged sale, the debt mountain and the collapse.

            Anything that takes in Vulture Capital funding. One day those vultures are going to want their profit, then you get the leveraged sale, the debt mountain and the collapse.

            10 votes