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By Eric Johnson
Published Feb 20, 2023

Elon Musk seems to be working hard to perfect the Midas Touch of Shit. Elon Musk seems to be working hard to perfect the Midas Touch of Shit. Image credit: Mario Breda, Shutterstock

02-20-23: Our Anti-Enshittification Project

“Enshittification” is a new word, first seen online less than a month ago. Google it today and you will discover that it has already found its way onto more than 45,000 websites, used in countless articles describing the multitude of ways the Internet has become so shitty.

The word was coined by Cory Doctorow, a longtime editor at the pioneering blog site bOING bOING. While his piece is focused on the social media giant TikTok, its scathing critique can be applied to practically every major online endeavor today. Sadly.

Recently, of course, Elon Musk has delivered a master class in deploying the Midas Touch of Shit. But he is not the first once-noble tech titan to go to the dark side. As a longtime editor and publisher of online media enterprises, I have been personally fixated on the enshittification of Google since way before the word existed. Google used to help us find all the cool stuff on the web—now Google sends way too much of its traffic to Google, while starving those of us legitimately in the "content" business. I was happy to find these succinct insights in Doctorow’s piece.

Google Search was based on principles set out in founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin's landmark 1998 paper, "Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine," in which they wrote, “Advertising-funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers.”

Even with that foundational understanding of enshittification, Google has been unable to resist its siren song. Today's Google results are an increasingly useless morass of self-preferencing links to its own products, ads for products that aren't good enough to float to the top of the list on its own, and parasitic SEO junk piggybacking on the former.

Enshittification kills. Google just laid off 12,000 employees … 

Word of the Month: 'Enshittification"

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.”

Find more darkly humorous wisdom on the topic from our friend Chris Neklason right here.

Eschewing Enshittification

Collage of images generated by DALL-E with the prompt “An ink drawing in the style of Ralph Steadman of a group of creatures with human bodies dressed in business attire but with lizard heads, outside Twitter corporate headquarters.”
Ever wonder why things go wrong in our country and economy? We learned a new word from Cory Doctorow, and found a solution to this menace in the Fediverse.

Has the Shit Finally Hit the Fan?

Speaking of layoffs at Google: The massive hemorrhaging of jobs in the tech sector—and over the hill in Silicon Valley in particular—continues to dominate the news. (Just checked and there are 102 million search results for “tech industry layoffs.") 

One can’t help but wonder if we are about to witness the biggest burst bubble in Silicon Valley history. In a piece that packs a nearly comprehensive look at that history into a breezy read, Jon Vankin explains why (sadly?) the answer is probably not. 

Silicon Valley Boom and Bust: Why California’s Tech Mecca Always Survives

Google is just one of dozens of tech companies announcing major layoffs in 2022 and 2023.
Silicon Valley has been hit with repeated boom and bust cycles throughout its history, and layoffs are sweeping the tech industry in 2023. Here's why the Valley will survive the latest downturn, as it has all the others.

Is Google Evil?

Some of you saw this article last week, and you’ll understand why I am sharing it here again in a discussion about enshittification and a tech-sector bloodletting. 

DOJ Lawsuit Seeks To Force Google to Sell Ad Service

Has Google established a monopoly over online advertising? The feds say yes.
Google may be forced to sell off its $200 billion online advertising service if a new lawsuit by the federal Department of Justice claiming that Google acts as a monopoly succeeds.

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