The pampas of ennui

Being Leonardo Boiko's online Journal, featuring Long & Very Sporadic Essays on any Subject.

Negative design

26 March 2012

As expected, the only result of the crackdown on megaupload was to make a few dozen clones to popup, enlarging the list of filesharing sites that have been appearing ever since rapidshare: mediafire, 4shared, uploading, bitshare, crocko, zippyshare… All these sites have the same structure: they exist to enable copyright infrigement; works are uploaded by users, so as to give plausibe deniability; and they openly employ the worst possible ads, often downright misleading (fake “download” buttons and so on). What’s more, the sites have a premium (paid) account system, and they put up deliberate, artificial hoops for “free users” to jump through. The ecosystem seems healthy enough that we have to believe this combination (sleazy ads & usability barriers) must be good enough to earn money.

What I find interesting about these sites is their design: in the case of free accounts, they’re intentionally trying to engineer the worst possible user experience, right at the threshold of being unusable. I don’t know whether anyone has done this kind of negative design before; it’s like trying to fail. They could be useful as a sort of inverted measurement stick: If some use case of your site looks even a bit like rapidshare and friends, you know it must be horribly broken.

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