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Cory Doctorow has a plan to wipe away the enshittification of tech

Accepted submission by AnonTechie at 2024-01-30 16:27:27
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It's not just you – things really are getting worse
An apocryphal tale regarding the late, great footballer George Best being interviewed by a reporter just after getting suspended from Manchester United offers an apt description of today’s tech industry right now.

Best was the finest footballer (or soccer in Freedom Language) of his generation during the Swinging Sixties and was one of the first big-money athletes to transcend sport and achieve celebrity. He was handsome, ferociously talented on the pitch, and famously debauched off it. He was once quoted as saying "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars – the rest I just squandered."

According to the tale, the journalist was ushered into his hotel suite – strewn with empty champagne bottles after a wild party. A former Miss United Kingdom was freshening up in the shower and George sat in an armchair with a cigar and a huge glass of Scotch in his fist. The journalist’s first question was: "So Bestie, where did it all go wrong?"

The same question can be asked of today’s tech industry which, like Best, experienced initial greatness but has arguably wasted the spoils with loutish behavior and cashing in on past achievements.

Attracting customers and then exploiting them is a phenomenon that's as old as capitalism, but it's become endemic in the tech industry where it has earned a new name: "enshittification."

The coiner of the term, author and activist Cory Doctorow, described it thus.

Here is how platforms die: first, 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. Then, they die.

Doctorow gave a speech on the topic at last year's DEF CON infosec conference, and his analysis is gaining traction on all sides of the political and technological spectrum.

[...] Doctorow suggested enshittification of services happens due to the kind of management that such mega-companies demand.

Traditionally, CEOs progress in a large company by taking a new idea and growing it into a valuable business unit. It worked for Microsoft's Satya Nadella in developing cloud platforms for Redmond, and Andy Jassy followed a similar route to success with Amazon after pioneering AWS. Meanwhile, Sundar Pichai oversaw the growth of ChromeOS before taking leadership at Alphabet.

Doctorow thinks that the same process might also harm innovation. Uneasy lies the head that bears the crown, and CEOs might be unwilling to promote major new innovations – he cited the failure of social network Google+ as a classic example.

[...] In the end it should be possible to reverse the current trend and reintroduce a more competitive technology industry environment that can spur innovation, spread the wealth, and grow more efficient for users, employers, and investors.

YouTube Talk [youtu.be]

The Register [theregister.com]


Original Submission