Cory Doctorow recently (wait it was in 2022?) coined the phrase Enshittification to describe a pattern of decreasing quality of online platforms that act as two-sided markets.

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.

This is, of course, too good a word to just waste in its original meaning, namely applying to two-side markets and thus everything is suffering from Enshittification: SaaS drops free tier, that’s Enshittification; one day delivery becomes two day delivery, that’s Enshittification; streaming platform raises prices, that’s Enshittification; streaming platform introduces ad supported tier, that’s Enshittification; etc..

Raising prices, which effectively all the above are examples are, is not Enshittification, it’s just, well raising prices.

You probably recognize the last two examples as something that Netflix has recently done, which gets mixed up with a massive dose of nostalgia to create the mythical streaming Golden Age where one could watch everything worth watching on Netflix*

The problem is that this Golden Age never existed, the number of shows/movies on Netflix at the beginning was tiny, around 1000 films and this has been increasing, so why this perception?

I think the reason for this is that due to the increase in the share of Netflix originals and the balkanization of the streaming world, people feel that they are missing out. The fact that this was always the case will make no inroads in convincing anybody that arguably Netflix has improved as a service, e.g. it now includes some good games for mobile devices (Terra Nil or Into The Breach come to mind) or the extraordinary amount of international content.

* I’m using Netflix as the eponymous streaming service as it is the most popular service by number of subscribers.