Fantasy.ai has gotten into hot water since its inception, which for a company which is based on the Open Source community, is quite impressive feat on its own.
For those who don’t know, basically fantasy.ai goes to various popular model creators and tempts them with promises of monetary reward them for their creative work, if only they agree to sign over some exclusive rights for commercial use of their model, as well as some other priority terms.
It’s a downright Faustian deal and I would argue that this is how a technology that begun using the Open Source ideals to be able to counteract the immense weight of players like OpenAI and Midjourney, begins to be enclosed.
Cory Doctorow penned an excellent new word for the process in which web2.0 companies die – Enshittification.
- First they offer an amazing value for the user, which attracts a lot of them and makes the service more valuable to other businesses, like integrating services and advertising agencies.
- Then they start making the service worse for their user-base, but more valuable for their business partners, such as via increasing the amount of adverts for the same price, selling user data and metrics, pushing paid content to more users who don’t want to see it, and so on.
- Finally once their business partners are also sufficiently reliant on them for income, they tighten their grip and start extracting all the value for themselves and their shareholders, such as by requiring extravagant payment from businesses to let people see the posts they want to see, or the products they want to buy.
- Finally, eventually, inexorably, the service experience has become so shitty, so miserable, that it breaches the Trust Thermocline and something disruptive (or sometimes, something simple) triggers a mass exodus of their user base.
- Then the service dies, or becomes a zombie, filled with more and more desperate advertisers and an ever increasing flood of spam as the dying service keeps rewarding executives with MBAs rather than their IT personnel.
Because Stable Diffusion is built as open source, we are seeing an explosion of services offering services based on it, crop up practically daily. A lot of those services are trying to discover how to stand out compared to others, so we have a unique opportunity to see how the enshittification can progress in the Open Source Generative AI ecosystem.
We have services at the first stage, like CivitAI which offer an amazing service to their user-base, by tying social media to Stable Diffusion models and fine-tunes, and allowing easy access to share your work. They have not yet figured out their business plan, which is why until now, their service appears completely customer focused.
We have services, like Mage.space which started completely free and uncensored for all and as a result quickly gathered a dedicated following of users without access to GPUs who used them for free AI generations. They are progressing to the second stage of enshittification, by locking NSFW generations behind a paywall, serving adverts and now also making themselves more valuable to model creators as soon as they smelled blood in the water.
We do not have yet Stable Diffusion services at the late stage of enshittification as the environment is still way too fresh.
Fascinatingly, the main mistake of Fantasy.ai is not their speed run through the enshittification process, but rather attempting to bypass the first step. Unfortunately, fantasy.ai entered late in the Generative AI game, as its creator is an NFT-bro who wasn’t smart enough to pivot as early as the Mage.space NFT-bro. So to make up the time, they are flexing their economic muscles, trying to make their service better for their business partners (including the model creators) and choking their business rivals in the process. Smart plan, if only they hadn’t skipped the first step, which is making themselves popular by attracting loyal users.
So now the same user-base which is loyal to other services has turned against fantasy.ai, and a massive flood of negative PR is being directed towards them at every opportunity. The lack of loyalty to fantasy.ai through an amazing customer service is what allowed the community to more clearly see the enshittification signs and turn against them from the start. Maybe fantasy.ai has enough economic muscle to push through the tsunami of bad PR and manage to pull off step 2 before step 1, but I highly doubt it.
But it’s also interesting to see so many model creators being so easily sucked-in without realizing what exactly they’re signing up for. The money upfront for an aspiring creator might be good (or not, 150$ is way lower than I expected), but if fantasy.ai succeeds in dominating the market, eventually that deal will turn to ball and chain, and the same creators who made fantasy.ai so valuable to the user-base, will now find themselves having to do things like bribe fantasy.ai to simply show their models to the same users who already declared they wish to see them.
It’s a trap and it’s surprising and a bit disheartening to see so many creators sleepwalking into it, when we have ample history to show us this is exactly what will happen. As it has happened in every other instance in the history of the web!