How monopoly enshittified Amazon
In Bezos’s original plan, the company called “Amazon” was called “Relentless,” due to its ambition to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Today, Amazon is an enshittified endless scroll of paid results, where winning depends on ad budgets, not quality.
Writing in Jeff Bezos’s newspaper The Washington Post, veteran tech reporter Geoffrey Fowler reports on the state of his boss’s “relentless” commitment to customer service. The state is grim.
Search Amazon for “cat beds” and the entire first screen is ads. One of them is an ad for a dog carrier, which Amazon itself manufactures and sells, competing with the other sellers who bought that placement.
Scroll down one screen and you get some “organic” results — that is, results that represent Amazon’s best guess at the best products for your query. Scroll once more and yup, another entire screen of ads, these ones labeled “Highly rated.” One more scroll, and another screenful of ads, one for a dog product.
Keep scrolling, you’ll keep seeing ads, including ads you’ve already scrolled past. “On these first five screens, more than 50 percent of the space was dedicated to ads and Amazon touting its own products.” Amazon is a cesspit of ads: twice as many as Target, four times as many as Walmart.
How did we get here? We always knew that Amazon didn’t care about its suppliers, but being an Amazon customer has historically been a great deal — lots of selection, low prices, and a generous returns policy. How could “Earth’s most customer-centric” company become such a bad place to shop?
The answer is in Amazon’s $31b “ad” business. Amazon touts this widely, and analysts repeat it without any critical interrogation, proclaiming that Amazon is catching up with the Googbook ad-tech duopoly. But nearly all of that “ad” business isn’t ads at all — it’s payola.
Amazon charges its sellers billions of dollars a year through a gladiatorial combat where they compete to outspend each other to see who’ll get to…