Hey there! On day 9 of our advent calendar, we’re diving into a provocative topic (even at the risk of getting coal). Yes, we’re talking about the trend of 'enshittification' in the tech world, where companies, often under the guise of 'Tech for Good,' end up making the world worse.
Enshittification kicks in when companies (often tech companies), having gained a substantial customer base, start prioritising cost-cutting over quality.
We brought you three examples to showcase how this happens and evolves over time:
Amazon: Initially, Amazon enticed customers with below-cost pricing and the convenience of Prime. But as their user base solidified, the tables turned. Now, sellers are grappling with a 'payola' system for product visibility, and customers face an increasingly ad-dominated experience. Astonishingly, as of 2023, nearly 45% of the sale price of items on Amazon was eaten up by various fees. This shift from customer-centric to profit-centric practices raises questions about Amazon's commitment to societal improvement.
Facebook: Facebook's claim of bringing people together masks a deeper, more troubling reality. Their platform, once a hub for personal connections, has morphed into a landscape dominated by paid content, diluting the genuine social interaction it once facilitated. This shift has not only affected users but also impacted media companies, leading to a reliance on Facebook traffic. The result? A platform that's far from its original promise of strengthening social relationships. Today, Facebook keeps people on the platform with emotionally manipulative content instead of being used for its original intent of connecting families and friends and sharing pieces of their lives with others.
X: Post-Elon Musk's acquisition in 2022, Twitter has seen significant changes. From closing its API and restricting interoperability to prioritising paid subscriptions over organic content, X's evolution has been marked by controversy. The platform, once a bastion of free speech and community engagement, now faces criticisms of increasing hate speech and advertiser losses – stark indicators of a platform moving away from its original values.
These cases illustrate a disturbing trend: tech companies, under the guise of innovation and societal improvement, often succumb to practices that prioritise profits over people. The result is a net negative in terms of societal impact, which is in sharp contrast with the vision of 'Tech for Good'.
It's not enough to claim you're doing Tech for Good if the long-term result is a lower quality of life and service for your users. Making the world a better place should come before improving your margins.