For a while now, Cory Doctorow has been warming to his theme on how social networks trap their users with network effects, then exploit them when they find it hard to leave because all their friends are there.
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.
I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.
I'm used to thinking about social media in terms of the 'big social' brand names – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. These platforms have achieved a size and weight that makes them feel inevitable. It's easy to forget that they're all very new, as is 'social media' itself, and that there are viable alternatives.
Before the rise of Facebook, we had a much more open web of sites and blogs that retained individuality and personality, with little or no centralised control or influence. However, the rise of social platforms, culminating in Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, means huge centralisation of power and control in the hands of very few. Cambridge Analytica, QAnon and the Elonisation of Twitter show how precarious this situation is.
#Fediverse is not a new solution, but it has newly become mainstream, as media attention and new users have flooded toward it looking for a Twitter replacement.