An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet’s Enshittification and Throw It Into Reverse

My Defcon 31 speech, delivered August 12 in Las Vegas.

Cory Doctorow
21 min readAug 27


A photograph of me speaking on stage at Defcon 31.
Ken Nichols, used with permission

Going to Burning Man? Catch me on Tuesday at 2:40pm on the Center Camp Stage for a talk about enshittification and how to reverse it; on Wednesday at noon, I’m hosting Dr Patrick Ball at Liminal Labs (6:15/F) for a talk on using statistics to prove high-level culpability in the recruitment of child soldiers.

On September 6 at 7pm, I’ll be hosting Naomi Klein at the LA Public Library for the launch of Doppelganger:

On September 12 at 7pm, I’ll be at Toronto’s Another Story Bookshop with my new book The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation:

I have a confession to make: I am old. I turned 52 last month, the full deck of cards. I have two artificial hips. I have cataracts in both eyes. I’m old as dirt.

You may know that the AARP has a squad junk-mail ninjas that track you down on your 50th birthday to try to sell you a membership. Less well known is that the AARP also issues every 50 year old with a license to complain about how much worse things are today than they used to be in my day

I know that complaint is trite, but I think it’s true when it comes to the internet. I think the internet used to be better, back before it turned into what the Kiwi hacker Tom Eastman calls “five giant websites filled with screenshots of text from the other four.”

I miss the old, good internet. But this isn’t a talk about bringing the old good internet back. It’s a talk about what a new good web could be.

And why we don’t have it.

And how we’ll get it.

This is a talk about enshittification. Enshittification is a term I coined to describe how platforms die.

Platforms are the endemic form of the internet. A platform mediates between end users and business customers: Uber has drivers and riders; Amazon and eBay have sellers and buyers; Google and Facebook have publishers, advertisers and…