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The Internet's midlife crisis

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

By Kyan Wang Sept. 28, 2023 “Don’t be evil” seems like a rule that should apply to everyone. Google built an entire brand around this core tenet, promising that its intentions were pure and humanitarian, outlining its goal as to make information “universally accessible and useful” in their mission statement. “Don’t be evil” was discarded as Google’s official motto in 2018, having outlived its purpose in masking the morally questionable decisions regarding privacy, manipulation of search results and more that led to Wikipedia’s 10,000 plus word article on criticism of Google.

Tech platforms typically begin their life cycle by offering a useful and oftentimes free or low cost innovation. But as companies expand, so does their drive to chase profits. As a result, tech companies almost inevitably turn to unscrupulous exploitation of its users, diminishing the quality of their product (think of pop-up ads), to squeeze their diehard fans of all the money they are worth. This phenomenon was termed in 2022 by tech blogger Cory Doctorow as something I will euphemistically refer to as “endungification” as in the actual term “dung” is replaced with an explicit term that is unfortunately not fit for publication in this paper.

Users of major platforms often cannot find suitable alternatives and are thus subjected to the whims of greedy companies. Such is the case with Amazon, which holds a near monopoly on online shopping. Fast shipping and low prices have lulled users into the arms of the e-commerce site, which now allows sponsors to jam their low quality products at the top of the search results, raking in cash at the expense of its loyal customer.

The company formerly known as Twitter has come to exemplify endungification, as Elon Musk has attempted to recoup losses on his $44 billion acquisition of the platform. From burying the comments of anyone who is not willing to pay $114.99 a year for “X Premium” to limiting all users from viewing Tweets to decrease server costs, Musk has not been afraid to destroy the core values of the former Twitter—a platform that valued the free discussion of topics. Perhaps most comically is the fact that paying for “X Premium” merely halves the amount of ads the user sees. Musk has even suggested making Twitter completely subscription based.

Unfortunately, endungification has become nearly ubiquitous as it greatly increases profit for online platforms. The centralized nature of the modern internet, dominated by enormous trillion dollar companies, practically guarantees that it is in a company’s best interest to nickel-and-dime its users. As people have come to accept the continual degradation of web platforms, the user-driven days of the World Wide Web may truly be over.

 

About the Contributors

Kyan Wang Science & Tech and Feature US page editor Kyan Wang is a junior at Leland High School and is the page editor for Science & Tech and Feature US for The Charger Account. When not being crushed by imminent deadlines, he enjoys listening to music, wasting away on his computer, and running on the rare occasion that he is not debilitatingly injured.

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