A theory on how internet platforms are dying

According to a recent essay by author and internet activist Cory Doctorow, many of the biggest tech platforms, from Amazon to Facebook, follow a similar model of transformation.

First, he says, these platforms sue users for artificially low prices of products or interesting ways to connect with friends.

Then, they hook vendors like advertisers or third-party retailers with promises of reaching a captive audience.

Ultimately, Doctorow says, as companies try to maximize their profits, they’re destroying the experience on their platforms through a process he describes as a four-letter word we can’t broadcast or publish.

Below is an edited transcript of a conversation between Doctorow and Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino about how internet platforms are dying.

Cory Doctorow: As business customers flock to the platform, the number of places you can buy things off-platform is starting to dwindle. Media companies start to become Facebook first or YouTube first, sellers close their brick-and-mortar marketplaces in favor of Amazon or are forced to go out of business. And once these business customers are also locked in, platform owners can start collecting the surplus for themselves when users are so used to buying their content or heavy goods or services from our platform that they have nowhere else to go.

Meghan McCarty Carino: Although people complain about them incessantly, I think it’s hard to argue that they’re dead. People still use them.

Doctorov: These firms see [an] we’ve moved to smaller platforms, you know it’s still peripheral, but a lot of growth in what’s called fediverse with Mastodon and other decentralized services. You know, there’s a way of thinking about people still being on these platforms that you can call it an obvious advantage. And if you’re still paying, you can tell [Amazon] Prime, then you have to like Prime even if you complain that you think Amazon is a bad company. But if all the merchants in your community have closed and you’re still using Prime, is that an obvious advantage? Or is it locked?

McCarty Carino: What, if anything, can be done to improve this?

Doctorov: So I think, you know, we have a lot of policy direction these days to make these platforms better. But I’d like to see more focus on making them less destructive when they give in to their worst impulses, right? If you were able to leave a platform like Twitter or Facebook, but continue to message people who haven’t left yet, then you can still go and connect with the people who matter. You. As the platform drops, you know you won’t get stuck on it. And then when it finally explodes, your community won’t be scattered to the four winds. You would actually re-weave it over a number of other, smaller services. We could also make a rule that telling someone they subscribe to a feed and then not showing them the stuff in that feed is an unfair and deceptive practice. The [Federal Trade Commission] has broad authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to police unfair and deceptive practices. If I say to you, “Show me everything on this tape,” and you say, “Yeah, I’ll do that,” and then you don’t do it, I’m having a hard time understanding how. it is not unfair and deceptive.

Doctorow’s full essay can be found on his personal blog here . He explains in more detail how this cycle is happening at specific companies, such as advertisers suing Facebook for inflating video sizes. Facebook settled the case for $40 million.

And Doctorow cites recent reports from Forbes about how TikTok could be headed down a similar path.

Based on internal documents and communications, as well as interviews with several employees of TikTok and its parent company ByteDance, Forbes reported that the video platform strategically boosts certain content in a way the company calls heat.

The practice can give creators the wrong idea of ​​how profitable it is to post on TikTok, diminishing the relevance of TikTok’s biggest selling point, the For You feed.

TikTok told Forbes that it promotes certain videos to “diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community.”

Finally, The Washington Post ran a piece last year that demonstrated how the Amazon shopping experience has changed, using the example of searching for cat beds.

The piece highlights how many sponsored listings Amazon displays, which make up more than half of the first page. One of them was for a dog bed, something completely different.

Source link