Google’s enshittification memos
[Note, 9 October 2023: Google disputes the veracity of this claim, but has declined to provide the exhibits and testimony to support its claims. Read more about this here.]
When I think about how the old, good internet turned into the enshitternet, I imagine a series of small compromises, each seemingly reasonable at the time, each contributing to a cultural norm of making good things worse, and worse, and worse.
Think about Unity President Marc Whitten’s nonpology for his company’s disastrous rug-pull, in which they declared that everyone who had paid good money to use their tool to make a game would have to keep paying, every time someone downloaded that game:
The most fundamental thing that we’re trying to do is we’re building a sustainable business for Unity. And for us, that means that we do need to have a model that includes some sort of balancing change, including shared success.
“Shared success” is code for, “If you use our tool to make money, we should make money too.” This is bullshit. It’s like saying, “We just want to find a way to share the success of the painters who use our brushes, so every time you sell a painting, we want to tax that sale.” Or “Every time you sell a house, the company that made the hammer gets to wet its beak.”
And note that they’re not talking about shared risk here — no one at Unity is saying, “If you try to make a game with our tools and you lose a million bucks, we’re on the hook for ten percent of your losses.” This isn’t partnership, it’s extortion.
How did a company like Unity — which became a market leader by making a tool that understood the needs of game developers and filled them — turn into a protection racket? One bad decision at a time. One rationalization and then another. Slowly, and then all at once.
When I think about this enshittification curve, I often think of Google, a company that had its users’ backs for years, which created a genuinely innovative search engine that worked so well it seemed like *magic, a company whose employees often had their pick of jobs, but chose…