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A theory of how internet platforms die

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According to a recent essay by author and internet activist Corey Doctorow, many of the biggest technology platforms, from Amazon to Facebook, have followed similar patterns of transformation.

First, these platforms offer artificially low-priced products or attract users with exciting ways to connect with friends.

It then hooks up sellers, such as advertisers and third-party retailers, with the promise of reaching a captive audience.

Finally, Dr. Doctorow said, when companies try to maximize their profits, they end up ruining the experience on the platform through processes that they describe in four-letter words that can’t be broadcast or published.

Below is a compilation of conversations between Doctorow and Marketplace’s Meghan McCarty Carino about the demise of internet platforms.

Corey Doctorow: As business customers flock to the platform, the number of places where they can buy things off the platform will begin to decline.Media companies will begin to go Facebook-first or YouTube-first, and sellers will close brick-and-mortar marketplaces in favor of Amazon. or be forced out of business. And once those corporate customers are locked in too, and users become accustomed to getting content, hard goods, and services on their platforms, and have nowhere else to go, platform owners will want to keep the surplus for themselves. You can start harvesting.

Megan McCarty Carino: People seem to complain about them incessantly, but I think it’s probably hard to claim they’re dead.

Doctorow: These companies are watching [an] The outflow we’ve had to smaller platforms is still marginal, as you know, but we’re seeing a lot of growth in the so-called Fediverse with Mastodon and other decentralized services. Like, there’s a mindset about the fact that people are still using these platforms that you could call revealed preferences. I can [Amazon] With Prime, you must love Prime even if you complain that Amazon is a bad company. But when all merchants in the community are closed and still using Prime, is it an obvious preference or are they locked up?

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

Doctorow: So I think we have a lot of policy aspirations these days trying to make these platforms better. It’s more about being non-destructive, isn’t it? For example, interoperability means you can leave a platform like Twitter or Facebook and still send messages to people who haven’t left yet. and stay in touch with the people who matter most. you. And as the platform dwindles, it’s likely that you won’t stick with it. And when it finally implodes, your community won’t be scattered in all directions. You can also create a rule that telling someone that you’re subscribed to a feed and not viewing anything in that feed is an unfair and deceptive practice.of [Federal Trade Commission] We have broad powers under Section 5 of the FTC Act to enforce unfair and deceptive conduct. If I say to you, “Show me all the stuff in this feed,” and you say, “Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do,” and you don’t do it, how am I going to do it? It is not unfair or deceptive.

You can read Doctorow’s full essay on his personal blog. hereHe goes into more detail about exactly how this cycle unfolded at specific companies. For example, when advertisers sued Facebook for inflating video metrics. Facebook finally settled its lawsuit $40 million.

And Doctorow cites a recent report forbes About how TikTok is going 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 believes the video platform is strategically boosting certain content through what the company calls heating. I reported that there is

While this practice dilutes the relevance of TikTok’s biggest selling point, the For You feed, it can give creators a false sense of how lucrative it is to post on TikTok.

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

lastly, washington post wrote an article last year showing how the Amazon shopping experience has changed, using the search for cat beds as an example.

The article highlights the number of sponsored listings Amazon displays, which make up more than half of the first page. One of them was for a dog bed and another completely.

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