Users, advertisers – we are all trapped in the ‘enshittification’ of the internet

This morning’s Observer column:

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy,” says the adage, “they first make mad.” Actually, that’s overkill: the Gods just need to make people forget. Amnesia turns out to be a powerful narcotic and it’s been clouding our perceptions of what’s been happening on the internet for at least 25 years, namely the inexorable degradation of the online environment and our passive, sullen acceptance of that.

Thanks to Cory Doctorow, the great tech critic, we now have a term for this decay process in online platforms – enshittification. “First,” he writes, “they 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.” Enshittification results from the convergence of two things: the power of platform owners to change how their platforms extract value from users and the nature of the two-sided markets – where the platforms sit between buyers and sellers, holding each hostage to the other and then raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them…

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