A tiktok enshittification edited artwork meme

Enshittification

Updated Jan 07, 2024 at 04:32AM EST by Triplem.

Added Apr 06, 2023 at 11:59AM EDT by Aidan Walker.

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About

Enshittification is when an online platform becomes more monetized and less user-oriented the longer it lasts. The term was theorized by Canadian writer and thinker Cory Doctorow to describe the trajectory of platforms like TikTok, Amazon and Twitter. He argued that platforms start out serving users by offering features that lure them in, then they serve advertisers and third parties by offering ad targeting and deals, and lastly they serve themselves and their shareholders by cheating and exploiting both advertisers and users. Doctorow calls this process "enshittification."

Origin

Doctorow's fullest description of the idea (and the most popular version of it) is summed up in a January 21st, 2023 essay published to his personal blog.[1] This same essay was later republished to other outlets, such as Wired. However, Doctorow seems to have used the term as early as November 2022, when talking about his book Chokepoint Capitalism.[2] Doctorow's work, which describes "platform capitalism," draws on the research of Nick Srnicek and others. A January 27th, 2023 tweet by Doctorow using the term received over 200 likes and 113.5k Twitter[8] views in over three months (seen below).


Cory Doctorow (@pluralistic@mamot.fr) @doctorow In the #enshittification cycle, a #platform lures users with a good deal at first, then it lures business customers (advertisers, sellers, creators) by handing them the #surplus; finally, it takes all the surplus for itself, creating a pile of s---: pluralistic.net/2023/01/21/pot.. 1/ Spotify Home Search 110 orary Liked Songs Your Top Songs 2022 PORTAL SOUNDTRACK Cam Backdood Juke (F Chub Mix 94 n Cuba Cura de Nuestra A Radicale Your The Songs 201 P Boogie woogie The Best of the Taking Heads Your Top Song 2000 Age ALT 8 B STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW PODCAST Stuff You Should Know STAND- UPO Stand Up Comedy Co Comedy Central ? But Why: A Podcast for TALKS DAILY TED Talks Daily TED THE POSITIVE MINDSET PODCAST The Positive Mind P 30 FOR 30 30 for 30 Podcasts 2 132 TRUE CRIME DA True Crime Dally The P DAY THE P Trine Dey The Girls Bathroom The Girls Bathroom Sophie & Cinge the psychology of your 20's The Psychology of you... The Economist Podcasts CRI Lex Fride 202 PERD JOE HOC The Joe Rogan Exp ed Your Brain st Podcast On The Left 113.5K • Jan 27 ↑

Platform Capitalism

In his 2016 book Platform Capitalism, which made that term more popular, Srnicek argues that the internet era is defined by a new kind of capitalism centered on data as the most important resource.[3] Data is important because it fuels platforms that use it to better organize the relationships between buyers, sellers, and goods. Srnicek analyzes not only social media platforms but also goods and services like Uber and John Deere. He ties the development of platform capitalism to the rise of technology, but also to the rise of Wall Street, venture capital, and broader developments in the world economy after the 1970s.

Srnicek says platforms have four characteristics:

  1. They are intermediary digital infrastructures (they offer ways of bringing buyers, sellers, audiences, items, and services together online)
  2. They are valuable because of network effects (the more people on a platform, the more valuable that platform is)
  3. They are cross-subsidized (platforms offer some things for free, so that they can charge for other things)
  4. They want constant user engagement (in order to extract more data)

Srnicek sees data as valuable because it's both what platforms extract from users and the resource they use to train their algorithms and make themselves better at generating more user interactions (which then produce more data).

Doctorow's Additions

With his "enshittification" idea, Doctorow seems to add two major points to the theory: the first is his argument that "a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold(ing) each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them," as stated in his article "The Enshittification of TikTok." A platform gets enshittified (that is, worse to use for both individual people and advertisers/businesses) because it knows both the people on it and the businesses are trapped there. Since they won't go anywhere, more money can be extracted from them. Often, people are trapped on a platform because the platform is a monopoly, because of a network effect where it's hard to find the same amount of reach anywhere else, or because of how much of their business or life already happens through the platform. A January 21st tweet by Doctorow (seen below) explains the phenomenon as part of a much longer Twitter[9] thread, earning 243 likes in three months.


Cory Doctorow (@pluralistic@mamot.fr) @doctorow • Jan 21 Enshittification truly is how platforms die. That's fine, actually. We don't need eternal rulers of the internet. It's okay for new ideas and new ways of working to emerge. 118/ 1 1 22 243 ₁9,362

The second point that Doctorow adds is that "enshittification" is part of a life cycle: platforms start out not making money but attracting tons of users. Then, they take the data from those users and sell it to advertisers. At last, they exploit the advertisers and users in order to make a lot of money, becoming gradually less usable and less interesting. Then, they die. In his essay, Doctorow argues that this already happened to Facebook, and is currently happening to TikTok. Another tweet from Doctorow's thread, seen below, describes the "enshittification" of Facebook and received 340 likes.


Cory Doctorow (@pluralistic@mamot.fr) @doctorow : 32 Retweets 3 Quotes 340 Likes 3 Bookmarks ... Today, Facebook is terminally enshittified, a terrible place to be whether you're a user, a media company, *or* an advertiser. 33/ 4:36 PM Jan 21, 2023 26.6K Views

Spread

The original essay was published in January 2023 to Doctorow's site. By March of 2023, the essay was reposted or reviewed on several other sites such as Wired, The Guardian, and the Financial Times.[4][5]

Many commentators saw Elon Musk's changes to Twitter after his acquisition as a classic example of enshittification. They argued that the decrease in quality of the service as well as the search for new ways to monetize, such as $7 blue checkmarks, meant the platform was getting enshittified. For example, @SethAbrams on Twitter[6] argued that the word should be added to the Oxford English Dictionary because of how well it describe the Musk era (seen below left) earning almost 300 likes on April 3rd, 2023. Twitter[7] user @tithenai, the account which Abrams quote-tweeted, identified Twitter's decision to charge for its API as a classic enshittification (seen below right).


Seth Abramson @SethAbramson "Enshittification" should be added to the OED No other word describes Elon's management of Twitter so concisely Amal El-Mohtar @tithenai Feb 2 Been a while since I added to this thread but the enshittification of this website proceeds apace.twitter.com/TwitterDev/sta.. Show this thread 10:47 PM. Apr 3, 2023 46.9K Views . 58 Retweets 4 Quotes 290 Likes 2 Bookmarks : Amal El-Mohtar @tithenai Been a while since I added to this thread but the enshittification of this website proceeds apace. Twitter Dev @TwitterDev. Feb 2 Starting February 9, we will no longer support free access to the Twitter API, both v2 and v1.1. A paid basic tier will be available instead Show this thread 6:41 PM. Feb 2, 2023 58.5K Views ... 9 Retweets 2 Quotes 65 Likes 1 Bookmark

On January 5th, 2024, "enshittification" was voted 2023 Digital Word of the Year and overall 2023 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society[10].

Search Interest

External References

[1] Pluralistic – Tiktok's enshittification

[2] Australian Library and Information Association – The Enshittification of Everything

[3] Nick Srnicek – Platform Capitalism

[4] The Guardian – We Are All Trapped In The Enshittification Of The Internet

[5] Wired – The Enshittification of TikTok

[6] Twitter – @SethAbrams

[7] Twitter – @tithenai

[8] Twitter – @doctorow

[9] Twitter – @doctorow

[10] American Dialect Society – 2023 Word of the Year Press Release

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Top Comments

Victreebong
Victreebong

MySpace. No clearer example. Became too big for itself. FaceBook’s been a lost cause, long before it tried to change its name. When they went public, this was already in full swing.

I see it happening even on KYM. You guys have to constantly bring up TikTok, and repost things that aren’t memetic at all, but just momentarily popular. And don’t forget the ad growth that’s been burning up our phone chips for the past two years.

+53

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