Dobush, a longtime seller on the site who recently shut her store there down, describes in a thoughtful Wired Magazine piece why she thinks Etsy has lost its way. Her essay has gotten some 7,000 Facebook shares since it was posted Thursday, and generated many mostly supportive comments and tweets.
“At its outset, Etsy was a powerful tool for makers, by makers. We were a bunch of Davids, fighting back against the big-box Goliaths with artisanal slingshots,” she writes.
“In the past few years it’s become apparent that Etsy is the Goliath.”
Dobush outlines five complaints with the site, while also taking care to say the site has been a huge catalyst for the maker and handmade movement. You should read her whole piece, but here is a summary.
It’s too big. Anyone who’s scanned the site hoping for a quick crafty gift has no doubt gotten bogged down in thousands of tangential results. Good luck typing “earrings” into the search tool. (You’ll get nearly 2 million results.) Dobush also notes that Etsy favors its own bottom line through little tricks like automatically sorting search results by highest prices first.
Too many resellers. Etsy is full of retailers selling goods they didn’t actually make, including mass-manufactured goods. This of course helps Etsy make more money, but Dobush says it does no favors for small-time makers.
The site has “homogenized” the indie craft world. Every quirky item, from jewelry to prints to t-shirts, immediately spawns a thousand imitators. “It’s so incredibly boring,” Dobush laments.
On this point, we only give Dobush half credit. Etsy may have contributed to this sad trend, but the rise of Brooklyn and other hipster cultural outposts is a broader phenomenon.
Successful businesses leave Etsy. This may not seem like a knock against the site, but Dobush argues it shows makers want more flexibility and control than Etsy offers.
Perhaps, but again it doesn’t seem like the biggest strike against the site. If sellers leave, more power to them.
It’s a goliath. This is perhaps Dobush’s main point. Instead of embodying the crafty, maker culture it helped unleash online, the site now feels like another big business.
It’s hard to argue with the observation that Etsy now has little in common with the mom and pop retail store. It’s always unsettling when big business in a formerly quiet outpost of the retail landscape. Just ask organic food advocates about Whole Foods, or book lovers about Amazon.
Etsy insists it’s a community-centered marketplace that is committed to its sellers and buyers. “We value craftsmanship in all we make,” the company says on its blog. “We keep it real.”
One thing is for certain, though. With a mega IPO coming soon and reports of new features on its potential competitors, more change is coming both to Etsy and the maker world.