Early this year, we wrote about OnlyFans and how its popularity represented a new path for social platforms, one grounded in creator control and against censorship. In the last two weeks, however, the company has thrown this narrative out the window. They announced that the site would no longer support explicit content, followed by a groundswell of public backlash. Almost all of the digital dissent centered on the absolute disregard for the sex worker creators who made OnlyFans so popular–as well as how, without them, the site would cease to be relevant. The company soon backtracked and announced that the porn ban was off. Now, after ruining their public image, losing the faith of their core creators, and causing other direct-to-fan sites to publicly announce their support of explicit content creators, it’s uncertain whether OnlyFans will survive.
This shakeup in the social media sphere is only the latest demonstration of how platforms go generic. The trajectory looks something like this: a new social media site starts out with a clear purpose that other sites are not fulfilling in its most grand capacity. As the new app grows in popularity and takes more of a presence in the market, other sites begin adopting elements of the new app in an attempt to dampen their popularity. This in turn leads to users becoming less distinguishing in what content they post on which platform. They become echo chambers for each other. As the new app establishes its relevance, it too begins to stray away from its original function in order to stay competitive, adding elements of other sites to become a one-stop-shop for social networking. Copying the competition is the go-to strategy for survival.