squiblet avatar

The basis of this article seems to be interpreting stage 1 of enshittification (“platform is good to users”) as being a “free rider”. However, that is incidental to users and not even necessarily known to them. Therefore it’s a flawed view to say users are trying to be a “free rider”. All the users know at that point is they are receiving a good deal.

I, a user on BlueSky or Threads or Facebook or Mastodon or whatever, have paid exactly zero of any currency to access it. Here, the user is almost definitionally a free-rider.

The platform may be paying to grow their business and advertise, essentially, or they may be using the customer as a source of data and audience as required to sell ads. So it’s quite wrong to look at it as if the user is acting entitled or taking advantage of someone.

If that right is restricted or they are expected to trade something for that right – even something ultimately immaterial and intangible, like seeing ads – they cry “enshittification” and push blame for this state of affairs onto the platform, then try and leave it for another platform that is willing to indulge free-riders… until their costs, too, become unsustainable.

This is all really so wrong as to be painful to read. As if Facebook doesn’t make money from people using their service?


I read this comment before clicking the link and thought, “wow, this article sounds like it’s going to be garbage.”

And it was.

To add to what you’re saying: this article is such a pile of misunderstandings and reductive thinking to to basically do anything to get the thesis “There is no better way than this! It’s so mean how these companies are unfairly criticized by the greedy, greedy, proletariat!!”

FaceDeer avatar

The basis of this article seems to be interpreting stage 1 of enshittification (“platform is good to users”) as being a “free rider”.

Indeed, while this can be true it doesn't have to be true. It's entirely possible to profit off of your users without being awful to them. Economics is not a zero-sum game, everyone can "win" from a transaction. Typically this happens because each party gets something from the other party that they value more than the other party does.

For example, I spent years on Reddit happily arguing with wrong people, deriving my "value" from just having fun interacting with folks about stuff. The server resources that Reddit expended supporting that were fairly trivial in dollar terms. Meanwhile Reddit earned a bunch of money by pretending to serve ads to my ad blocker and by selling information about me to AI trainers (or they would have if they'd thought of that before it was too late). None of that bothered me any, so they got something valuable to them from something nearly costless to me.

If Reddit had just stuck with that then everything would have been fine. Instead Reddit hired 2000 staff for some reason, requiring them to squeeze even more money out somehow, and the rest is history.

Bloonface avatar

For example, I spent years on Reddit happily arguing with wrong people, deriving my "value" from just having fun interacting with folks about stuff. The server resources that Reddit expended supporting that were fairly trivial in dollar terms. [...] Instead Reddit hired 2000 staff for some reason

They hired 2000 staff because they were running one of the most highly-trafficked websites on the Internet, with hundreds of millions of users, something which unsurprisingly takes quite a lot of people to administer and maintain. Were Reddit to not invest in people and resources to keep the website running at that scale, you would not be able to use it in the way you enjoy and it would have nowhere near as much utility to you.

This is the entire point of the article that you missed - there are a shit-ton of costs in running a massive community that have to come from somewhere. Your approach is "well I don't think those costs are necessary". But they are.

FaceDeer avatar

They also spent those 2000 staff implementing image hosting, video hosting (poorly), a live chat feature nobody wanted, maintaining a mobile app that was inferior to several apps being developed by lone independent coders, and a bunch of other nonsense unrelated to the core experience of Reddit. Rather than being the best Reddit the could be they tried to poorly mimic Facebook and Instagram and other such social media sites.

The thing that killed Reddit was the unfortunately extremely common drive that corporations feel to grow, grow, grow grow all the time every quarter. Always must have more subscribers, more features, more income streams, more products, new markets.

@snek@lemmy.world avatar

Yeah, I keep getting told by business-savvy people that I don’t understand business and that you always have to grow into your market or even growing into someone else’s, otherwise you’re done for.

But that strategy hasn’t really been working, has it? Why not just be a sustainable business? Focus on ramping up competition only when someone dips into your user base. Don’t hire a couple thousand people only to boot them a year later. They were temp workers all along, just didn’t know it.

squiblet avatar

That’s an issue I see with this analysis and the underlying problem also.

The so-called “free ride” stage for many companies has been fueled by easy VC money, accelerated by low interest rates. The belt-tightening enshittifying “time to make money!” trend has been spurred by higher interest, as it’s time to cash in on older investments.

The thing is that users never demanded anything for free. We wanted the service that Uber or whoever provided at a fair rate. That’s it. Companies like that chose as a strategy to pursue growth while sacrificing profits in order to corner the market - drive taxi companies under, promote their service vs public transportation, build market share and brand recognition, and ingrain habits into customers. That was an investment for their benefit, not a donation to us freeloaders. Same as Facebook or reddit or whatever providing decent free services that killed off independent forums, blogs, so on while taking control of publisher’s customer lists. Not exactly a charity.

Then when it’s time to raise prices and screw over customers and employees, it’s basically a bait and switch. They paid to make us dependent on them, then once we were, oh, prices doubled and payments halved. FB owns access to businesses’ mailing lists and stopped displaying page posts to your own subscribers unless you pay for ads. So did we get something for free? No, they invested in controlling us.

Ragnell avatar

The problem here is that people want a service and businesses want a product. The "free-rider" period is businesses masquerading as a service in order to accumulate a product: Us.

Because that is what they are selling. Our writing and our thoughts and our interactions. They are selling them to advertisers, to AI developers, and in the case of membership communities they are selling us to each other. But make no mistake, they are selling US.

The problem with the enschittification model is not that "it's from the point of view of a freeloader err, free-rider" but that "it applies to a poor business model." It can only be solved when the business model changes, when userbase is no longer a product, or consumers AND a product, but are treated as the recipients of a service and members of a community. Right now only the Fediverse model does that.

What's really killing the business end of this is the rot economy. Vampire capital keeps throwing money at companies that present their userbase as a product. The vampires want a profit, and they are told that the profit will come from a largue userbase creating user-created content. So they lure the product to the company by presenting it as a service, and then pull the rug out so that they can monetize the userbase and get endless growth. Things get progressively worse as they try to min/max the business: minimizing the costs and maximizing the revenue by rent-seeking from the users. Then the users, the PRODUCT, up and leave.

Enschittification is happening because companies see users as their product, their source of content, and their source of revenue all at the same time but have presented their business to the users as a service.

Their business model needs to radically change. And social media needs to shift to governments and non-profits providing it.


Don’t tell me. The full bibliography of Ayn Rand adorns your bookcase?

Bloonface avatar

You really couldn't be more wrong.

You don't have to be a Randroid or a libertarian, or even right wing, to understand that a discourse predicated on everyone getting everything for free with no real trade-off doesn't really make sense in the real world.


You’re entirely ignoring network effects. No one is saying Amazon should have made a loss indefinitely, or at all. They’re saying that they deliberately made a loss to lock customers and businesses into their platform.

Network effects matter a great deal and I gave up half way through this article because I couldn’t find any sign at all that you recognised this. It’s liberal garbage: “Hey kids, here’s how the world works if you entirely ignore power”.

Hopeless. Sorry.

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