The Disenshittify Project

The Disenshittify Manifesto

Disenshittify the Web one small step at a time.

While the enshittification of the Web (and beyond) might seem far greater than any individual can even make the slightest dent in–you, we, can deshittify the Web one small piece at a time. Something you like or use or do that's become enshittified? Disenshittify it.

The background

A handful of times a year, for years, I (John Allsopp) have needed to created a QR code. My go to has been a service from a well known link shortener. Then recently I used it to create a new QR Code and went to download it only to discover it was now a paid service.

So not wanting to pay a non trivial amount of money on a subscription basis to create a QR Code a few times a year I went looking for alternatives. The first few results on Google Search required at the very least an email or account setup. Every service had as least some advertising or analytics (usually both typically multiple of both).

And that's before the question of what happens to any URL I convert to a QR code. Those associated with link shorteners track them, but what about the others? What if it is a private or semi private link? I know security by obscurity is a very poor policy, but most people won't stop to think about this stuff–they need a QR code.

It struck me this is a good example of what Cory Doctorow calls enshittification–only writ small. Doctorow's thesis is captured here, (ironically in a way) at the Financial Times website of all places (here's a link to a version at Cory's site) where he writes

It’s a three-stage process: first, platforms are good to their users. Then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers. Finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, there is a fourth stage: they die.

Doctorow is talking about Platforms, like Facebook (and Google and Youtube) but I think it's a process that works at smaller scales too, like with QR Code creators (and recipe websites–yes I hear a screaming–"just give me the effing recipe" ). Now, when things are bad in really big systemic ways it can feel challenging for individuals to do anything about it. But it occurred to me that in my own tiny almost completely insignificant way I could deshittify at least a small part of the Web–QR Code creation.

I asked myself how hard can it be really to make one–surely some unappreciated person had built a JavaScript library that generates QR codes? Turns out of course they have. Not in Nebraska, turns out some guy in Korea had (no not North Korea calm down) 12 years ago!

And it also turns out when another person has done almost all the work making a QR code creator isn't much work at all!

And then, because I'm vainglorious and love tilting at windmills I thought why not encourage others to deshittify little bits of the web themselves and then help amplify their efforts? And so the Disenshittify project was born. I actually liked the term "unshittify" (you know enshittify/unshittify) but when I floated that name Doctorow himself responded. Cool! Though to correct me:


OK Cory. Sheesh 😉.

So let me announce The unshittify Disenshittify Project–Disenshittifying the Web one small step at a time


So much can be done in the browser now, so a privacy respecting approach, that doesn't track users, doesn't keep data, doesn't require signup or sign in or an email address is more than feasible for many projects. Something that does one thing really well and lets folks get on with their life.

But won't someone think of the (potential future) billionaires?

Yeah whatever, I've been doing this web stuff since almost the beginning. Most of the money made on it has come from shamelessly enclosing the commons of other people's work. Maybe something like the Interledger Protocol will in time create the possibility of a better model. But for many small focussed things on the Web right now it's advertising or nothing. And advertising can easily get you on the slippery slope to surveillance.

Kindred projects

Here are some projects in the spirit of this one–if you've got one or a suggestions, let us know!

A List of Suggested Projects

Keen to get involved? Here's some quick thoughts that occurred to me of things that could be Disenshittified, in the browser, without any need to keep any data.


We use Matomo Cloud to collect basic data on vists to the site. Matomo is a privacy focussed analytics tool, we use to get a basic snapshot of how many folks visit the site and where they are coming from.