This week on my podcast, I read a recent Medium column, “Microincentives and Enshittification” (open access link), about how Google went from being a company whose products were eerily good and whose corporate might was more often on the side of right than wrong, to being a company whose products are locked in a terminal enshittification spiral and whose lobbying might is firmly on the wrong side of history.
Let’s start with how hard it is to not use Google. Google spends fifty billion dollars per year on deals to be the default search engine for Apple, Samsung, Firefox and elsewhere. Google spends a whole-ass Twitter, every single year, just to make sure you never accidentally try another search engine.
Small wonder there are so few search alternatives — and small wonder that the most promising ones are suffocated for lack of market oxygen.
Google Search is as big as it could possibly be. The sub-ten-percent of the search market that Google doesn’t own isn’t ever going to voluntarily come into the Google fold. Those brave iconoclasts are intimately familiar with Google Search and have had to override one or more defaults in order to get shut of it. They aren’t customers-in-waiting who just need a little more persuading.
That means that Google Search can’t grow by adding new customers. It can only grow by squeezing its existing customers harder.
For Google Search to increase its profits, it must shift value from web publishers, advertisers and/or users to itself.
The only way for Google Search to grow is to make itself worse.