Two lost decades

15 May, 2024

Heat Death of the Internet by Gregory Bennett stresses me out as I read it.

To my mind there's basically been two decades of intentional bait-and-switch-fuelled enshittification in almost all the commercial products and services which have been front and centre of western society in that time.

As they've done this to maximise revenue returns for people who are already multi-millionaires or billionaires, they've spent time removing access on open platforms (and thus limiting access to only the richest living in suitably well-networked regions) and putting them behind closed, inaccessible ones. Essentially replicating what AOL and Yahoo failed to do - establish a platform lockin where they earn money every time you take any action, and because it's activity locked inside an app, you can't liberate your access and still reliably use the service without the risk of getting your account closed. This means they can then change the terms of access (including price hikes) and how they treat their staff and there's nothing you can do about it.

This really pisses me off. It screws users, it screws workers and it moves the window of expectations that the next generations have of their digital services so that over time lockin increases. You can check what was presciently written 24 years ago about how hypercapitalism drives this.

This poisonous change of expectations is echoed even in public sector organisation which I otherwise hold in high regard when it comes to enabling digital access, in particular in the framing and focuses of the blog post Putting growth at the heart of GOV.UK’s strategy.

But here's the real deal: with 20 years of this behaviour we now know that this is the direction for most corporations, and it's one that is embraced particularly hard by the VC-backed companies. So don't use them. The perpetual disappointment and increasing costs are not worth it to you and the ongoing erosion of workers' rights and pay are not worth it for society (and the direction of digital access) as a whole.

None of these things are real hardships, and I'm not suggesting people become digital hermits or opt completely out of the modern world, but where possible doing the items on the left gives more material value to you than the items on the right.

In an age where all the VC-subsidised access to those things is easy and directly tangible it can be hard to revert to potentially spending more for less, but we've also learned that money is the only lever we have. Use it wisely.

See other posts tagged with internet okdoomer enshittification hypercapitalism and all posts made in May 2024.