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Etsy has ousted its CEO and is laying off 8 percent of its staff (recode.net)
431 points by luu on May 2, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments



The conversion problem on mobile does seem like an issue, but speaking as a former customer of Etsy what drove me away was the selection. Not that it's too small - rather, Etsy is now flooded with thousands of storefronts selling "artisan" pieces that are actually bought on AliExpress or similar and marked up. If they're trying to apply ML to managing customer recommendations, they should figure out how to identify who's actually selling legitimate wares.

I stopped buying from Etsy a couple years ago - I purchased my SO what I thought was a unique, interesting "handcrafted" necklace. I thought it looked a little factory-made when it arrived, but it wasn't anything too expensive so I didn't sweat it...then she found it on AliExpress for $5. I then realized the six week lead time for "hand crafting" was actually the time for international shipping and domestic re-packaging.


This is tougher than it seems on the surface.

A few years ago, I was involved in planning and running a maker "fest". We invited makers, and artists to the festival to show off their projects, and some of them wanted to sell things.

A not-insignificant number of participants who wanted to sell things were just reselling things you could buy at Michaels, or buy online (in bulk) for cheap.

Sometimes with just a little modification, or maybe a creative recombination, or repackaging.

The problem is that you basically have to examine every single item, and then personally decide if it qualifies as art or not.

That's a lot harder than it sounds, and can quickly devolve into a judgemental mess that nobody wants to participate in (we wanted to encourage makers, not subject them to some "must be at least this cool" test, which is scary for people).

Imagine the PR fallout for etsy the first time they tell somebody that their handmade widgets look like mass produced junk.

I think they're in a really tough spot. When they weighed the options, my guess is that they realized that it would be best to let the consumers just decide what they want to buy.


> I think they're in a really tough spot. When they weighed the options, my guess is that they realized that it would be best to let the consumers just decide what they want to buy.

...but then the problem is, what makes them better or different from any other storefront? If there's a ton of mass-produced product on Etsy, why would I want to shop there rather than on Amazon?


>what makes them better or different from any other storefront?

Brand, or...genre? I'm having a difficult time finding the word for it, but there is definitely a type of thing I go to etsy to look for. For instance, this: https://www.etsy.com/listing/159631469/aztec-death-whistle-t... (which is such a cool piece with such a cool story!).

I have no idea where else to go to even look for something like that. When I wanted one, etsy is the first thing that came to mind.

So I think that the mass produced stuff hurts browsing, but if you know what you are looking for, it's still easy to cut throgh the noise.


I tend to think of Etsy as being the place to go for cultural, rather than mass-produced consumerist, goods.


The problem is that most products only pretend not be mass-produced, when in reality, they are.


Perhaps the pretending is what people are paying/looking for. I certainly see a lot of that kind of thing when surveying supermarket shelves.


Do you really think so, that people don't want, say, a unique piece of jewellery but just to pretend - through what appears to be a fraud on behalf of the seller - that some over-priced mass-produced jewellery is unique.

I couldn't disagree more.

In part if I buy something on Etsy I'm considering that most of the money I spend will get re-spent in that person's local community. In part I'm trying to encourage them in their craftmanship/art.


    > Do you really think so, that people don't want, say,
    > a unique piece of jewellery but just to pretend -
    > through what appears to be a fraud on behalf of the
    > seller - that some over-priced mass-produced jewellery is unique.
I guess you haven't been to Pier One.

People do want an authentic, unique piece of jewelry. But they also want something affordable. Sometimes, buyers are a little willing to believe what they want to believe to accomplish both of those goals. And there is no shortage of sellers who will tell them what they want to hear (i.e. lie) to enable that.

For buyers who really do want something authentic, achieving that requires trust in the seller. That trust is something Etsy used to have in spades, and it's something that's been dwindling over time.


I mean, there has to be some level of overlooking the obvious going on. There's no way a person could sustain themselves on the prices that these items are going for, if they were actually hand-made.


I know someone who sews cute things; she'll post on Facebook about the progress, pictures of work-in-progress plushes, or purses, or coasters. She'll then go sell them on Etsy, and also post on FB for friends to buy. It's not a lifestyle business, but it's a way to recoup the cost of materials for doing something she enjoys doing. Often they're made from leftover fabric scraps from something she already made, so this is a way to recoup a little bit more from what she already sews.


It's really hard for small scale artisan workers to sell at a sustainable price _for a full-time occupation_.

Price are anchored lowered by comparison with mass-produced products and artisinal goods made in countries with lower cost of living.

I know people personally who sell on Etsy but only as a side-line. To me that's where Etsy and other craft marketplaces - Folksy, NOTHS - fit best.


Anthropologie makes a ton of cash from it.


Maybe if there was a system where consumers could identify the wares as manufactured themselves. Like a "legitimacy" rating system


They should really just add a rating system, I dont know anything about etsy but if customers say that they found it on alibaba with a given link then the seller would probably lose all future sales. Sounds like a very easy problem to solve...


But then Etsy lose all those sales, which presumably is why they don't do that.

Are they more committed to their morals or their profit?


That would be a very short-term perspective of them to take. If it becomes common knowledge that it's mostly repackaged chinese goods, then the storefront as a whole would collapse. In this case, preserving their morals I believe is very important to their business as a whole.


They probably only need to maintain the perception to keep most of the profits though, so look like your trying but don't do all you can.


They need to maintain their customers' perception, which is not so much about trying as actually having an effect...


Just have a 'reseller' category which users can filter our when searching if they desire, and allow reports like this to force a vendor into this category.


Likely easy to game.

And hard. I wear cufflinks. Half the good ones you can buy are artisan stuff built on aliexpress basics, and very difficult to distinguish from boring artless stuff build on the same basics. You can tell by looking, but difficult for software or for a bureaucracy. I imagine there are many categories like that.


I think parent commenter talks about crowdsourcing labeling, not software.


Yes, and when the median number of labelings for a given article is near zero (as it will be for handmade artisanal articles), it's very easy to spam in a few five-stars. The crowd you want isn't the crowd you get.

So you have to filter or supplement the user ratings/labelings/reviews using either software or inhouse people, which runs into the second problem I mentioned.


Ebay seems to do okay with their buyer/seller ratings..


Yes. And so could etsy for rating buyers and sellers. You can't spam easily if you have to spend money to do it.

But the grandparent suggested crowdsourcing saleable articles, for the kind of articles that are meant to be (simplifying) handmade.


When your store is flooded with garbage, consumers may decide what they want to buy is nothing at all.


It isn't really possible to sell a handful of random handmade things on Amazon, and that was clearly something you were interested in: it might be annoying as the stuff you want gets buried, but at least it is there?


In theory you'd go there because there still is some genuinely cool stuff you can't get elsewhere. Of course, as has been stated, the problem is finding it.


They are cheaper for sone things: my wife and I bought our wedding rings from there for a fraction of the cost of going to a jewelry store. Plus, in the case of both the the style of rings we wanted and also bum bags (I'm forgetful and women's clothes don't have pockets), some goods aren't available anywhere else.


But can you get those same rings for cheaper on AliExpress or eBay or Walmart or discountringsdirectfromchina.com or something? The point is you're going in with the expectation​ of a handcrafted item whereas half the stuff comes straight from a Chinese factory. The market for mass produced items is pretty saturated with many options, Esty originally differentiated itself with hand made items and buyers are willing to pay a premium for handcrafted items.


> They are cheaper for sone things

Cheaper than what, though? High street stores? sure. Without commenting on your specific example, the point is that much of the "hand made" stuff is just purchased from AliExpress and sold on with a markup, so it would have been cheaper for you to have bought it from AliExpress


> The problem is that you basically have to examine every single item, and then personally decide if it qualifies as art or not.

This reminded me of Walter Benjamin's essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", which was written ~80 years ago. Not sure there's any "solution" to what you or the OP are describing.


Turns out you can't mass produce individualism.


I mean, you can mass produce the appearance of individualism with a large enough data set and a well constrained ecosystem. Look at all the IoT-toaster bots on FB and Twitter scamming real people out of money. To some, the appearance is as good as the real thing.


This is exactly the same problem as fraudulent goods in any storefront. You solve it via a combination of policy and user flagging.

Etsy should put it in their terms that you're not allowed to resell goods there acquired from somewhere else. Then they can have a user form where people can file a tos violation with link to the original store.


It's a lot more complicated than that.

For one, they've always allowed some goods made by others - vintage, defined as anything 20 years old or more, and craft supplies.

Then, how much does of something has to be made by you? Taking an old suitcase and painting a bird on the side makes it just as 'handmade' as making the entire suitcase from scratch, as far as etsy could figure out.

And then, having user reports is not easy either. People may be wrong, or report their competitors. Or the store may lie about their goods.

Etsy has tried to do this already for years, anyway. They will investigate and ask store owners to send photos of their workspace.


That's a really good point. Even taking mass produced art and modifying it is in a way it's own art and I've seen some really, really good ones.

Seems a bit unsolvable.


Maybe if they were required to mention categorical suppliers it would further inform consumers


That's an interesting idea, and it has a secondary benefit of informing buyers about sustainability.


I like this idea. I'm not quite sure how to enforce it though but it's an interesting approach nonetheless.


I think that if people find a seller's stuff on Aliexpress and they reported otherwise, a simple "report this seller" with a link to the aliexpress item would literally put a peer powered approach to enforcement. By reading the comments here, it's already happening. This would just put a system in place for consumer to protect each other (which is kind of great!)


So much this. Folks should just be honest about it.


'Folks should just be honest' is unfortunately not a solid policy for an international marketplace.


It should be a rule liable to punitive measures when broken.


Of course, and Etsy has tried many rules that have punishment attached. Like most communities or marketplaces the punishment is removal of your listings or suspension of some account privileges.

Unfortunately my experience is they were very inconsistent with application of their rules, and often closed stores that didn't deserve it, sometimes repeatedly, while obvious rule breakers operated for months. Sometimes they remove items, sometimes esp. in the past you just come to log in and your password doesn't work and your store is gone.

While they also had issue forming reasonable procedures and rules, much of the problems are with application of their rules, as in having enough employees and managing training them effectively.


Wow, genuinely interesting to see all the stories here about what's happening to the store.


I had forgotten that Etsy changed its policy on allowing mass manufacturing several years ago: https://www.wired.com/2015/09/etsy-embraces-mass-manufacturi...

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/etsy-ceo-ipo-mass-production-...

Alibaba-resells has had a detrimental effect on Kickstarter and Indiegogo-type platforms too. Many of the things submitted to r/shittykickstarters seem to be resells. Indiegogo doesn't mind them, and Kickstarter only stops them when the negative publicity about a campaign gets high enough:

https://www.reddit.com/r/shittykickstarters/comments/3gm8xj/...


The amazing thing about Kickstarter knockoffs is that there's a huge market for simply stealing an idea and beating it to market. People have made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing this. It's completely absurd, Kickstarter product transparency is, in hindsight, almost ideal to steal products from.


Reminds me of this: "Your brilliant Kickstarter idea could be on sale in China before you’ve even finished funding it"

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12724096

That said, there's still vibrant opportunity in the other direction, i.e. finding items off of Alibaba, claiming to not only have made those items but that they are best-in-class/first-of-its-kind, and attracting people who don't bother double-checking on Google or Amazon, nevermind Alibaba.


That "other direction" is much more significant, at this point.

For every Kickstarter/Indiegogo project that's cloned by a Chinese manufacturer (e.g, Fidget Cube), there's probably at least 10 or 20 "projects" created to resell something that's already available. It's a huge issue for the credibility of both sites.


What's truly fascinating is all of these innovative products made in Asia which aren't officially marketed in the West (thus allowing people to market it in smalltime ways, like Kickstarter). If you go to the right parts of Asia now you will see a wild array of amazing, futuristic products that you can't find anywhere in the US.


A lot of them are kind of misleading junk though.


Yeah, I see a ton of these stand-alone VR headsets that--on the surface--look amazing. But if you really start to scrutinize the specs, you realize they are two-generation-old Android phone guts slapped inside a cheap plastic box. You're getting a glorified Google Cardboard with probably a janky OS, and not anything up to the standard of even the now-2.5-year-old Samsung Gear VR.


like what? selfie sticks?

(i live in asia)


I remember being on holiday in Thailand and seeing selfie sticks about 3 years before they hit the mainstream in the UK. I wish I'd started importing them myself.


Way more than that. A large portion of the Fulfilled By Amazon program is imports like this. If the subreddit is representative, nearly all of FBA is AliBaba imports.


Stupid question -- isn't that (usually) good? My model of Kickstarter projects is "I wish this product existed so I could buy it", not "I would like to personally profit from bringing this to market".


This is what it was originally intended to be, but Kickstarter long turned into a marketing platform for companies to get pre-orders for their new products.


Ah, that makes sense. But it still seems mostly benign to me: it accelerates the transition from non-obvious demand to purchasable product, thus doing better on the "I wish this product existed" metric.

I can see how it's effectively leeching off the efforts of those entrepreneurs who are trying to get pre-orders, but, as long as they haven't started building the product, it's a relatively small amount of work lost, in setting up a kickstarter page.


My main problem is that because it is billed as an "investment" (where your return is maybe a slight discount on the product), you have no recourse if the product is never delivered.

Many kickstarters are made by people with no experience in actually delivering product and are almost certainly doomed to fail from the start. Another large group are established companies that have investment already, and are using it purely as marketing because it is impossible to build their product at the funding levels kickstarters reach (outside of the big ones like Pebble). There are very few kickstarters that have non-obvious markets and are run by someone I would be willing to risk money on to have made, and zero where the return is worth my risk.


Yeah, what we need is a patent system that only gives 5 years, maybe some lower barriers in terms of how it's enforced. Maybe where a jury is asked 'does this feel like a knockoff of what the patent was generally describing or does it really do something new.' The risk of going afoul will be enough to keep people innovating.

I'd really love to see a common sense approach to patents.


Import tax from China would solve these issues.


Killing the UPU subsidies might be enough on its own.


So kickstarter is close to what could be the ideal platform when you primarily want the product to exist, with actually selling that product being a secondary goal at most. Unfortunately, only very successful kickstarters would be cloned and by that point one would be far too deeply invested to be content with the product existing.

Put a great idea on kickstarter, with the "rewards" orders at a high price point to make it more attractive for cloners, then if it succeeds fulfill rewards with rebadged knock-offs. What a gamble that could be!

Could a zero-cost kickstarter fully refund backers if the founder capitulates after finding formally succeeds? Can kickstarter fees be postponed until the funding is actually used? If that is possible, this charade could be a surprisingly light shade of grey, "we try to find manufacturing, otherwise you get your money back" would hardly qualify as a lie if the only omission is that you intend to look no further than alibaba.com .

Kickstarter for ideas, anyone, with the established crowdfunding model on the C side and open bidding for design and manufacture on the B side?


Yep, I found this with the Fidget Cube.

I heard about it after the Kickstarter closed, "aw chucks". A few months later I found the parent company was accepting purchases but wouldn't ship for months more, I bought one anyway (over $20!). Then a couple months later I came across knock-offs on Amazon. I forgot I ordered the authentic one, so I bought one on Amazon for $10. It arrived promptly. Then this week, I got the original cube in the mail--It took so long I totally forgot about it.

And honestly, I like the knock-off more... (granted, might just be a timing bias.)


I had a friend who had a similar experience but he feels the $30 one is better, the cheap knockoff is lighter and some parts have stopped working...


That's the business model of Zara, and there's nothing wrong with it. You can't "steal" something if it's public domain.

If you die off because some Chinese seller "stole" your idea which by the way you came up with first, then you deserve it because it means you didn't execute well enough.

I think this kickstarter culture has done more harm than good for makers because it made them chase instant gratification instead of substance. If you look at what happened to all the ambitious Kickstarter hardware companies, there is not a single one I'm aware of that's on their track to wild success.

People used to actually pour in their time and money (not just a slick youtube video) and risk all their reputation to build something that matters to them. I think at some point people decided to believe that you can take the shortcut via Kickstarter, but it's increasingly becoming clear that there is no such thing as shortcut.

It still sucks for them that these inventors are not rewarded for their brilliant ideas, but then again, I think if you are really serious about your product, you should invest more into it and make sure things like this don't happen.


> If you die off because some Chinese seller "stole" your idea which by the way you came up with first, then you deserve it because it means you didn't execute well enough.

Okay, I think I understand this idea. If somebody else can cut corners by cheaping out on materials, or skipping testing, or relaxing tolerances, and their product still sells, then clearly your own standards were simply too high.

> I think this kickstarter culture has done more harm than good for makers because it made them chase instant gratification instead of substance.

This seems in contradiction to the first statement. If you take instant gratification, you're a symptom of more harm than good. If you take your time and do it right, you deserve to die because you're not going as fast as your competitors. ?


> If you die off because some Chinese seller "stole" your idea which by the way you came up with first, then you deserve it because it means you didn't execute well enough.

I won't argue that copying ideas and reimplementing them cheaper/faster doesn't have upsides. But one worry is that the immediate downsides are felt by the original inventors. Sure, cheap copying is nice for the consumer and reseller, but they're dependent on original inventors being incentivized. It's not impossible for inventors to go the slow, substantive route, in which they come up with a business plan and an idea, but that limits the work of creation to those who can manage that kind of timeline.


There are very few original ideas, and you'll just drive yourself and everyone around you crazy by fretting over originality. Don't fool yourself into believing that only Chinese companies are interested in ripping off ideas; this has been a major function of large companies for a very long time.

We have to pop the fairytale bubble that some of us live in. Marketing and sales will win the day. No matter how fancy your technology is, there will be competitors and rivals, and it won't really matter who was "first". Being first can, in fact, be a substantial disadvantage, since you don't have the response/feedback from a competitor's prior attempt to gauge and reference.


I don't know about "wild success" but the 3doodler is now sold in ToysRUs, so that seems like a reasonable metric for entering the mainstream given their area.

MicroPython seems to have acquired a reasonable level of traction in the community too.

If you look at how hard it is to pitch products like these and raise capital, then kickstarter is certainly living up to its name.


Formlabs seems to be on its way there. (I'm biased though, since I did once work there.)


That's a rather harsh and Darwinistic view of things. Remember, the main purpose of Kickstarter is to raise funds to be able to bring this thing to market. If I have the idea, but no money, I deserve to have my idea stolen because I wasn't able to execute on having more money well enough?


> If I have the idea, but no money, I deserve to have my idea stolen because I wasn't able to execute on having more money well enough?

Nope you totally missed my point if that's your takeaway.


No, that's precisely what you said. If I have not the money to execute, then I deserve to have my idea taken from me. That is what supporting the idea of knockoffs taking a kickstarter product means.


Indiegogo doesn't mind? That's way too funny, I emailed Indiegogo a few weeks ago before starting a group buy from taobao. I still can't find a platform to organize something like that.

Since, this is HN it might interest you all: the top six on https://shop57714512.world.taobao.com/ . Tripod mountable 10"-17" travel monitors.


Why not MassDrop? They are optimized for group buys of things that already exist. Sometimes it is short production runs of niche goods, but I have also seen (and bought) goods available elsewhere.


Massdrop is branded around group buys of premium goods, not batches of random crap off Alibaba. I think they would see high quantities of listings as spam/polluting their listings/damaging their brand.

Traditionally that sort of stuff just happens in a thread on a forum somewhere - but I have to imagine that there's a pretty significant incidence of non-paying users or organizers who get in over their heads, so perhaps there is a niche there for basically organizing private group buys as well, that are advertised through another medium apart from Massdrop's storefront.

Hot take here but since you brought them up: I think Massdrop has their own branding problems. I used to do them quite a bit but have stopped at this point because the discounts are just not good enough to justify waiting 6 weeks to get my item (and I've had some items that were delayed out to more than 3 months from drop completion to delivery). I now make it a policy to compare against Amazon or the retailer directly - and since you have to wait a month through Massdrop you might as well compare against Seeedstudio and the other source vendors directly.

Usually the discount is pretty insignificant ($5-10) so I don't do it unless they are truly unique items that just can't be had elsewhere. And often those unique drops are limited to ridiculously low unit quantities and they're sold out before I can even order.

Not sure how quantity limits make sense on pre-orders, which is supposedly what Massdrop is doing. Is there only enough plastic left in China for 20 sets of crappy vacuum-formed keycaps or something?

It's a really nice model for Massdrop since they don't have to worry about fronting the money for inventory and waiting a month for the items to show up - their customers will gladly do that. But they're still very much taking the profit regardless of the fact that the customer is the one fronting the money - so it ends up being a terrible deal for the customer.


This has been my experience as well. Etsy in just a few years has gone from a artisan marketplace to a bunch of mass produced junk.

From the articles I've read they've done this to increase the number of sales (cheaper items = more conversions) but I think it's been slowly costing them their customer base.

Hopefully they realize this and start banning mass produced items and listening to their artisan stores feedback again.


I wonder if they can police the reselling of mass produced junk. I'm imagining initial efforts, making a notable dent in the problem, and then kicking off a "Made By Me" social media campaign. If resellers stopped seeing Etsy as a easy way to sell dollar store items at artisan prices, made that'd curb the problem a bit more.


Etsy gets multiple thousands of vendor sign-ups per day and needs a dedicated team to filter out vendors that attempt to game the marketplace by flooding it with thousands of listings for cell phone cases and other junk.

A lot of it is driven by Chinese middlemen and get-rich-quick schemes that are more than happy to burn the marketplace to the ground if they can make a buck in the process.

The challenge is that in the beginning the revenue is good and it's hard to say no to revenue when you need to beat the street every quarter. It seems so manageable at first. But unless you've lived its very hard to wrap your head around that you've planted the seeds of your own destruction.


it wouldn't take a dedicated team to detect if a seller is uploading a high amount of items.


Whatever you set your limit as it's pretty trivial to bypass if they are willing to create a thousand accounts. Close those thousand accounts and they will create a thousand more at the same rate you close them.

Add velocity controls for the IP address and you'll get a thousand sign ups from a thousand IPs. Limit it by device and you'll see a thousand devices. Flag the images using a perceptual hash and the images will come back superimposed on random pictures of food.

At some point you find that your accounts are now traded as a commodity on underground markets at various prices by teams that specialize in creating accounts, aging them and selling them for x cents. Add enough restrictions to new accounts and you'll find existing shops being taken over and flooded with listings.

And do all of this while still having an "effortless" signup experience for new legitimate vendors.


Are you really sure they are that sophisticated? Genuine question. THis sounds like an extreme worst case scenario


The example of cell phone case pictures superimposed over random pictures of food was from an Etsy presentation at a conference I recently attended.

Routinely (i.e. daily) I see activity that may involve 500+ unique IPs and 2000-4000 attempts. The type of activity that I see isn't close to what would be considered an extreme-worst case scenario in the industry.

Assuming the right economic incentives these groups are over time able to duplicate about any behavior that would be seen by a typical customer. For example, they can effectively remote desktop into a device and create a sleeper account and then come back to the exact same device a week later once the probation period has expired and execute a larger attack.

Also it is hard to fully understand that markets where labor isn't scarce fundamentally organize themselves differently. For example one recent attack that I'd see involved multiple attempts from multiple IP addresses and multiple devices all within seconds of each other and using the same credit card for registration. For a while I marveled at the technical skills that would be required to orchestrate such an attack until I realized that it likely was likely a dozen people in a room sharing the same credit card number and launching the attack in a coordinated fashion. Low tech, but extremely effective when labor is cheap.


Until they went public Etsy had a policy against mass manufactured products [0]. They opened this door willingly in the first place.

[0]http://abcnews.go.com/Business/etsy-ceo-ipo-mass-production-...


Sure. Require a refundable deposit of $1000 (replace by some magic number) which is forfeited if you're caught selling mass produced junk. Other after-the-fact punitive measures can be in the contract you have to sign to get on the site.

Something along these lines must exist where legitimate sellers can live with it while the cost to the spammers must be unacceptable.


A lot of sellers on etsy couldn't afford the $1k to start.


That's why I had the (replace by magic numbers) in parenthesis. There may be some number where you can still attract legitimate sellers but is high enough so people taking a risk to just peddle junk will turn a loss on average. The only way you get rid of the junk is to make their expected profit less than zero.


that would go over really poorly.

nobody would spend $1000 on what is essentially a gamble (since etsy is determining whether you're 'selling mass produced junk').

sellers already feel like etsy is way too buyer-friendly (at the expense of sellers).


Etsy has to invest effort in making sure that legitimate sellers don't have this gamble. They have to be sure they're only penalizing the spammers. It's not unlike insurance fraud, do you feel it's a gamble that you're getting insurance because the insurance company won't pay out or will pursue you for fraud? Probably not. Yet they still try to identify and prosecute the fraud. If the site is dominated by spammers selling stuff from the dollar store everyone loses. You have to make it so that it's not worthwhile for the spammers. A deposit is one way. Pursuing legal action for contract violation could be another. Another industry with similar issues is banking.

It's not easy but you have to invest in maintaining the credibility of your platform. Machine learning helps but these problems have existed pre machine learning and can have more traditional economic solutions.

EDIT: The deposit could also depend on your prices and sale volume. This way really small players can pay in with a lower deposit. There are probably many variations but again the key is to make it a losing proposition for the spammers/dollar store guys assuming you want them off your platform. If you're only doing machine learning/filtering the cost to attack the system and try to get in is too low.


Doing that would decrease their sales and ability to grow drastically.

Hand made does not scale.


Scale isn't everything. first if you're a good marketplace you attract more and more diverse vendors, each of whom does low volume.

Besides, when the point of the site was unique handcrafted items, selling manufactured stuff undercuts the one thing that makes you different from your competitors.

I can't understand the argument you're trying to make. It's like saying that fine art doesn't scale because painters are so slow, so art galleries should postcards instead. Perhaps that would indeed be more profitable, but then you're not an art gallery any more, are you?


I agree, re-selling mass produced Chinese crap goes directly against the entire concept of Etsy and everything they supposedly stand for.

However they've sold a classic Silicon Valley "high growth" story to investors that they're now beholden to as a publicly traded company. That growth story can't be delivered on grandma's handicrafts.

Hence the site being slowly transformed into yet another generic online marketplace for drop-shipped junk.

It's ultimately a giant recipe for failure. The company DNA and core brand are at odds with the investor expectations around tech companies.


> they've sold a classic Silicon Valley "high growth" story to investors that they're now beholden to as a publicly traded company.

Less so than most - they're a B corp (is that the term?) with higher priorities than shareholder value.


Interesting detail, thanks for that.


"Hand made does not scale."

It most certainly can if you have the proper equipment. You can facet two or three stones by hand on flat grinding surfaces, or you can get a rotary lap wheel and spend a day making ten stones, then you can get a mechanical precision arm for the rotary lap and now you can pump out 20-25 high-quality stones per day that sell for good money.

It all depends upon your tooling and experience.


Not surprised. That's the story of eBay. eBay decided to embrace it.


There seems to be some natural law of Internet shopping that ensures that every "Specialized marketplace for X," will, once it becomes popular, inevitably devolve into a flood of thousands of sellers all reselling identical cheap junk from AliExpress for $0.99 + free shipping--to the point where it's impossible to find anything genuine or non-counterfeit.


Perhaps "Where it's easy to sell goods, it's easy to sell counterfeit goods"?


On the plus side, it should be exceptionally easy to identify since they probably don't have custom photos.


That works on day 1 of the crackdown, but not on day 15.


A magic number analysis of the images used in accounts would handle pretty much every duplicate found (which would highly hint at mass-reselling) unless the people got smart enough to figure it out and start jacking with the color palette.


Gresham's Law?


Like issues arising in most multiparty content aggregators, whether they're social networks or marketplaces, Etsy's seller situation reduces down to a discovery and reputation problem.

- How do you highlight "genuine" artisan products without some laborious process to inspect the seller?

- How do you allow new sellers to build the requisite reputation to be trusted as good and legit? How do you do this in a way so they don't get drowned out by more established sellers who have been around longer?

- How do you process incoming reviews to prevent voting rings and voting abuse, while nonetheless accumulating information on the seller's performance and trustworthiness?

These are difficult, inexact problems that can't be solved from a book and to the best we know, have to be trial-and-error tuned to the particular community in question. Much more so than anything solely technical, the way these problems are solved end up being the secret sauce behind communities, and similarly often responsible for their decline.


We recently purchased a handcrafted rustic patio set from an Etsy seller in Michigan.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/naturalcrafting

There are definitely some legitimate artists on there.


Ditto. I recently upgraded my EDC multi-tool to a Leatherman Surge. I also wanted to carry the bit kit and socket extension. Leatherman's own belt pouch for this is laughably bad:

http://www.leatherman.com/surge-premium-leather-sheath-314.h...

After searching around a little, I did find this guy who makes really heavy duty sheaths:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Nayscustomleather

It is a bit bulky, but it is likely to last the lifetime of the tool itself. Very good quality.


it's trickier than you think.

a VERY common complaint i saw while i was at etsy:

"i make bracelets and someone on aliexpress is ripping off my designs and even my photos, what do i do?"

i'm not denying that someone would do exactly what you're describing (purchase on ali and resell on etsy), but it's sometimes way more complicated than that.


This is something which is really a challenge.

In many markets discovery is a challenge (how do you create visibility to all of the customers who might be interested in your product) and then operational costs when your concept is discovered.

When brainstorming things I heard an idea which I thought was pretty cool, create a "trademark" registry in these bespoke market places. It would work by sending the market maker (Etsy in this case) pictures and a description of an item you are going to sell on the site.

They would take those images and descriptions and first verify that nothing else on the site already had both the same look and application, and then they would issue you a "trademark" for the product which you could start selling and advertising. If it was popular and someone tried to make copies, they would not be allowed to sell them on Etsy because when they submitted pictures and descriptions it would be apparent they were too similar to an existing product.

It is interesting to consider what the overall effect of such a system would be, we know that it would give a strong 'first mover' advantage (+1 to the sellers) but also prevent price competition (-1 to the buyers). It would help prevent counterfeits (+1 to the buyers) and might limit a seller selling their own product because the copy had already gotten to the market first (-1 to sellers).

I put trademark in quotes because while this is exactly the role of trademarks in the US, it is too expensive to pursue trademark violations for a $10 bracelet that you sell may 20 a month of. So you need a locally implemented system that can reduce the cost to implement and as much as possible automate enforcement through policy.


interesting idea, but i don't think this will solve the problem i'm describing.

the hypothetical person on aliexpress isn't really interested in selling on etsy, they're interested in copying something successful and selling it where they can maximize their profit (in this case, aliexpress).

it's basically the same problem that more established brands like ray-bans face (with cheap knockoffs), except because it's on a much smaller scale most buyers assume the worst (that the person is just buying on aliexpress and reselling on etsy).

i mean even amazon is facing this problem right now (with counterfeit goods), so one can only imagine how bad it is for a significantly smaller operation like etsy.

enforcing trademarks is difficult enough even within the US, and enforcing it globally is insanely difficult.


Essentially, it's riffing off of Youtube's ContentID system? The "might limit a seller selling their own product" problem is one of the issues with ContentID as well.


There are even more complications.

My SO makes a living selling hand made party supplies on Etsy, and has for years at this point. I assume she's fairly successful for an Etsy seller since she makes multiple thousands a month on hand made items (all made to order, a fair portion customized to specification). Even so, with all the work she puts in it's not significantly better than minimum wage after expenses and the time she puts into the shop. She has for a few years considered buying cheaper party supplies (plates, napkins, etc) in bulk and selling them in addition to her hand made crafts because customers generally need and so are going somewhere else to buy these items anyways. This is a case where allowing mass produces items would be a win-win, as the customers could get their custom and generic items in one order (they specifically ask if they are offered), and she could make some additional money from each order. Without the ability to resell mass produced items, you constrain this positive aspect of the system.


Its interesting to see the path Etsy has taken. IIRC, around 2007 or so they closed all of the 'vintage' shops because they weren't handmade. They quickly went back on that and restored those accounts. (In 2014 they also tried removing 'vintage' from 'browse', which resulted in a lot of backlash.)

Its a shame to see them relaxing the standards over the years. In 2007 their blog even acknowledged the mass-produced items and the lack of support for these products [1]

[1] https://blog.etsy.com/news/2007/cultivating-a-strong-communi...


Maybe the future of Etsy is with Vintage instead of handmade? I think it is easier to distinguish between vintage and factory made then handcrafted and factory made.

For example: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BonjourBizarre . I'm pretty sure you could not find any of those items on AliExpress.


Definitely. I think a combination of handmade and 'curated' is fantastic --- just not 'curated items from AliExpress.'

The overarching issue is that Etsy doesn't appear to recognize their users and what they're actually looking for. They've allowed for too much noise over the years.


The overarching issue is that profit trumps everything else.

I don't think Etsy "allowed noise". It's more that becoming a stick-on-folksy tat [1] bazaar was infinitely more profitable than trying to be a genuine source of lovingly crafted artisanal hand-mades.

Etsy seems to have enough users who are just fine with this.

I wonder if the real story is that other sources of tat have become more competitive and more widely known. Maybe there is no mass exodus of outraged craft buyers - Etsy's customers are simply shopping for the same things elsewhere, and paying less for them by cutting out the middlesite.

Etsy's profits didn't seem unduly harmed when they opened up their market, so the exodus theory seems unlikely.

[1] In case "tat" isn't a thing in USian English:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tat


This hit the nail on the head for me. Etsy was all the parts I loved about Ebay mashed with the parts of an art fair I loved. It's been on a slow slide to another Ebay in my eyes.


And their new CEO is the former head of eBay shopping, here to finish the job for the investors who can't understand they missed this boat already.


I only started looking at etsy last year when I was looking for a unique gift for an anniversary present, having spent a lot of time on ali express and the like I noticed lots of items being sold as handmade and as a result avoided the site entirely. I wouldn't trust any of the sellers because I don't have the time to check them all and if I have to do that I may as well look elsewhere, I also caution people against etsy for this reason.


That's a real shame. My wife has a store on Etsy and is downstairs right now sewing up another handbag. So it's kinda tough to hear that the reputation she's worked hard for on Etsy with the solid ratings, and with the hard work she's put in, the Etsy brand itself is turning people away. Etsy provides just enough to make it easy and worthwhile to use the system, but I wonder if she's legitimately losing sales this way.


Handbags? Oh my god, why isn't she selling on Facebook?

I know a very wealthy woman in Thailand selling custom $400-600 handbags to New York yuppies and literally her entire business is on Facebook.

I normally don't advocate this sort of thing but their ad platform and social network are basically made for this kind of business. Custom/Handmade luxury goods for upper-middle class women over a certain age? Facebook, every time.


Hrm, never really thought about that. When we started her shop, Etsy was the natural fit. There is a community around that. I'll have to look into this. Thanks for the idea!


NB: I imagine it's hyper-competitive. Instagram might also be the right choice now.


Well, you can always try your luck selling on wechat. According to my wife, she drops a few people a month because they start trying to sell her something.


She isn't marketing that way at all, she's buying Facebook ads and she has a page for her store. Her customers come to her through clicks or through asking their friends where they got their bags.


How does one sell on FB?


The community of glass artists I'm in has sold tons on facebook over the last few years. FB has always let you sell in Groups, and unlike many online venues, has zero problem with art glass pipes. It was the #1 place to sell online 2011-2013, then the community switched to Instagram. Instagram has since been the #1 place where people hold auctions and sell glass since then, and that's from $10 pendants to $500 tubes and up to $10, 20, 30k pieces.

So, to sell on FB, you say hey, i have this piece for $300, here's pics, I take paypal.



FB works with a handful of ecommerce platforms to enable this natively as well. https://www.bigcommerce.com/facebook/


For someone who is into vintage design and handmade interior design pieces, Etsy is still top notch, though.

There are some emerging competitors such as Chairish (overpriced), AptDeco (very little worth collecting), 1stDibs (hilariously overpriced) etc. And there's still eBay. But Etsy is still beating all of them. I have also yet to come across a bad seller there. Everyone I have bought from have not only provided a superb product, but also packaged it immaculately.

The search and discovery isn't great, I admit. (It's particularly hard to browse without being deluged with kitsch -- horrific "shabby chic" pieces made to look worn, or furniture made from old metal pipes or driftwood. They are lacking a "style" dimension.)


I miss regretsy.com. It had the ability to shame some of those vendors while being entertainment.


They need mass produced junk in order to have the revenue to be worth big money. I doubt there's enough genuinely artisanal product out there for them to stick to that business model and still have high growth...


I wonder how many viable product ideas have disappeared because the companies were too focused on exponential growth.

There's definitely a market for Etsy, but the concept behind it doesn't scale enough to meet crazy startup growth expectations.


If Etsy wants to moderate this, they can enforce GTIN verification. Google Shopping does this so they know how to rank bids for the same items by multiple department stores. Google Shopping requires that you put in some GTIN value (they verify it) or you make up your own Manufacturer Identifier (either you control manufacturing or you have a virtual item). The downside of using your own identifier is that they penalize you with worse cost / rankings but thats the cost of not having a GTIN.


How would that help? Each reseller could just create a unique GTIN for each item they resold. Nothing would force them to pick the same GTIN as other resellers of the same item.


My wife has a store on etsy selling handbags, and frankly, the traffic has gone done over the past year. She has a great reputation, and she still makes sales, but not because of Etsy. It's simply a store front for her where she can direct people that she finds via other avenues, such as Facebook and referrals. I imagine part of the reason of the decline is the fact that she focuses on higher end handbags, and doesn't try to compete on price. I've told her that she's isn't going to compete with Asia on price, so focus on quality and custom work.

Not to mention the fact that Etsy has done nothing to improve the sellers experience in years. Sure, they put out some new way to design your store front with something more custom, but practically speaking, it lacks critical features. She literally sent a customer to the store to pay for the bag via Etsy, and the customer couldn't find the PayPal button to pay because they didn't offer PayPal through the custom storefront.

It's really bad when your store prevents a legitimate customer from making a purchase, and that's literally what you are selling. Seriously.


Why not move to shopify?

Disclaimer: no relation, just a satisfied user.


Estsy is doomed because of this reason you stated. I call it '(downard) inflation of expectations'.

And there is a VERY GOOD information what happens with all this great 'do not eveil', do not harm, only for the consumer' startups the moment they have investors:

“The company’s historical pattern of ill-advised spending has completely obfuscated the extremely attractive underlying marketplace business model,” said by external activist investor in addition to: “We are fully prepared to take any actions we believe are necessary to protect the best interests of all Etsy shareholders.”


I remember the one-and-only time I used Etsy. It was for my wife for mother's day. I found a handmade ring that had holders for 3 tiny stones. I contacted the seller and asked if she could use 3 gem stones for each of our two children and pearl for their mom. It looked like I was gonna knock it out of the park for mother's day, she was gonna love it. I paid. Mother's day came and went, the seller's Etsy store went. After months of back and forth, Etsy issued me a refund. I lost that marriage, I guess it was the beginning of the end lol.


It sounds like this problem of fake self-made art could be prevented if etsy introduced a clause that prohibits sellers to sell items they haven't made themselves and fine any seller in violation. The fine could be a multiple of the last n months of revenue on etsy.


How would they ever enforce this?

I mean, maybe you can figure it out for the AliExpress case—but what about when it becomes one local "artisan" supplier supplying slightly-customized variants to each of its thousand Etsy-shop customers?

Or, beyond that, what about the case where something is 99% a pre-fab vendor good "base", and then 1% (or less) original work? Would an Etsy seller's signature on a store-bought mug make it "their" work?


Theoretically, Etsy already has that: https://www.etsy.com/legal/sellers/#allowed

The downside, I guess, is how to enforce it.

I was on the verge of setting up an Etsy shop (I have a bad habit of going to local auctions and buying china tableware for offensively low prices), but with this sort of thing going on, I'm conflicted.


Meanwhile, etsy is the only place I can shop for mens jewelry with any sense of success. Anecodtal evidence can point both ways.

Even if it's just a really effective store front, it works better for me than the huge retailers do. I'm gonna guess it depends heavily on what you're looking for.


I have to completely agree. The times I've bought something on Etsy I've spent hours filtering through the stuff that either didn't seem that interesting or unique or just wasn't handmade. So its more of a time commitment.


It seems like tons of things on AliExpress are just resold on Etsy. I was looking at plant seeds on there and just found and bought the exact same ones with same pics and everything without markup on AliExpress, so it isn't just jewelry and handmade items. That left a bad impression on me about Etsy.


You really shouldn't be buying plant seeds off the internet. Invasive species is a big problem, and even if you buy legit oregano (or whatever) seeds, there's a high risk that a couple of the seeds are really something else that's not native to your region.


I don't think these Japanese Maple and lavender and Carolina Reaper seeds are going to become invasive. :)

They aren't seeds originally found in China, they were just obtained elsewhere and then grown there cheaply and put on AliExpress, I assume.

As to worries about seed contamination from stray seeds from other countries like China, where do you think all the seeds in your seed catalog come from?

http://themindfulhome.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-definitive-gu...

"It's safe to say, a fair amount of what we purchase from distributors probably was grown in China." -Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com)

"depending on the seed variety and specific lot, we may have seed that was sourced from China." -GrowOrganic.com (aka Peaceful Valley)


What is 'native'? All apple trees are Persian, in the end. Just because there are a few species that outcompete others, doesn't mean that we need to freeze whatever is the current state of geographic dispersion of species to the 'gold standard', that we will defend and maintain at all cost.

I explicitly seek out exotic seeds to see how they will behave in my climate. Diversity is good. This whole 'native first' (or rather, 'native only') needs to die already.


Well, there's quite a few examples of invasive species that have constituted significant threats to human, animal or plant health, for instance. Like malaria, the bubonic plague, minor nuisances like that.

For some examples from more recent times, the US timber industry has spent tens of millions of dollars fighting the Asian long-horned beetle, the citrus industry has an extensive quarantine program in place fighting Asian Citrus Psyllid, invasive varroa mite are part of the reason for the strong decline in honeybee populations, etc.

Now you may say, "but I'm not importing mosquitos, just seeds", but really with Chinese seed suppliers with unknown QA and no knowledge of the ecosystem in your region, you run a real risk of introducing fungi, bacteria, insects etc. that can spread and do serious damage. Do us all a favour and buy seeds in your own country, where at least some QA and vetting for big risk factors has been performed.


Diseases are just that, diseases, not invasive or not. 'Invasive' is about competition, not direct attack. Goes for all your examples. So if you're saying 'don't import diseases' - well yeah. But that's not the point here.

Please tell which fungi, bacteria and insects spread through the vector you propose. Where do you think the seed you buy in your local garden center comes from?


I already gave several examples of bad stuff that spreads through the proposed vectors. If you would like some literature to back this up, here you go.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1890/070151/full

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800904...

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/vbz.2011.0814

The second one of those estimates the economic damage caused by invasive species in the US as $97 billion during the 20th century.

If you would rather like something written for the general public, here is an info page from the Australian government - or you could just try taking your imported seeds with you in your hand luggage when flying into Sydney, and see how well that goes.

http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive-species/...

The seeds you buy at your local garden center are subject to national and international laws, regulations and agreements specifically written based on work of hundreds of scientists to prevent as much as possible the introduction of diseases and other bad things that don't exist where you live. The garden center has to follow these regulations (and document compliance) or they get fined. When you buy seeds on eBay or AliExpress or wherever, there simply are no regulations on the sellers. Do you dispute this simple fact?



Invasive species tend to be a term used for things that thrive and choke out all competition and ultimately come to dominate and severely alter the landscape. Ultimately they tend to be bad for diversity.

Sorta like humans, except in plant/other animal form.


Strawman. GP was saying 'don't buy overseas seeds because they are species that are not native to wherever you are importing them to'. Which doesn't make sense - whether a species out competes another doesn't depend on where it's from. Sure, when you introduce some species into certain ecosystems, those ecosystems will change. Nobody's saying you shouldn't think and/or manage. What I'm saying is that the whole 'exotic is bad' line of thinking ultimately boils down to the naturalistic fallacy.


Exotic is bad when it costs the US economy $167bn a year, which is a realistic estimate of the amount lost because of the effects of invasive species of all kinds.

If you think that's a "naturalistic fallacy" perhaps you need to brush up on your economics.


this change should occur naturally and not be man made- we don't understand complex eco-systems enough to make such servere changes.

there is a reason why certain things are native- I would suggest a more humble approach!


Right, because apple trees took a stroll across the Mediterranean to settle in Europe?


No, obviously humans brought them over. Those same humans also brought the rat all over Europe, and with it the Bubonic Plague aka. the Black Death - which killed a third of the human population - full stop. Think about that one for a while.


Agreed, I tend to stay away from anything taking more than a week to arrive.

I recently made my first purchase on Etsy for mother's day for my wife. Her father recently passed and I got his fingerprint on a necklace from https://etsy.com/shop/RachelRothJewelry I received terrific customer service, the shop owner went way out of her way to edit the fingerprint which was basically a blob. I received the print a couple days ago and for about 1/5 of what the funeral home would have charged for the same thing, even after editing. So there are definitely some great shops on etsy but I did have to look around a lot to find a shop which could deliver this in under 2 weeks.


Less is more. I think this case is a prime example of how chasing higher revenue gets you in trouble in the long run. Amazon also suffers from this, just look at the recent cases of fake products.


Just out of curiosity how much did you pay for the necklace from etsy?


Why are poor reviews not enough to combat this? (in the long term)


Every poor review represents a failure and an unhappy customer. You want to stop that before it happens.


Because reviews are extremely easy to game.


What's Etsy's policy in this sort of situation?


Amazon is also having this problem. Their marketplace is flooded with knock-offs and incredibly low-end goods masquerading as cashmere or wool. It's either wholesale garbage or drop-shipped.


My wife bought something at a "local artist fair". They didn't even bother to remove the "made in china" sticker.


All of my local farmers markets are full of aliexpress crap. At least they're smart enough to remove tags. I've asked what kind of solder they used for a specific piece. "uhhh. just the normal stuff".


I ordered a rustic pipe desk from Etsy a while back and the seller was not able to deliver the item on time. He/she communicated the issue so it wasn't that big of a deal for me. I had a prearranged vacation coming up while waiting for the item to be finished and sent, so things took a little bit longer then expected on both ends.

When I finally got back home and put the desk together, I noticed that there were items missing and some things had not been packaged well so they were damaged/scuffed in shipping. Most of the issues were minor and I decided to not make a stink about it with the seller as I could easily work around and fix the problems. I did however want to leave a review of my experience for the seller to be made aware and future buyers to be warned.

Etsy's policy was however to deny me to review an item outside of a certain time window. I emailed Etsy's customer service to petition that I should be allowed to leave a review even though my window had passed given that the seller could not deliver in the time he/she had promised. Etsy's replies and refusal to allow this left a permanent impression on me and I will never spend another dollar there as a result of this ordeal.


Honestly a time window is standard practice to prevent customers from potentially holding the ability to negatively review as leverage.

For example if they were to allow indefinite periods for reviews, then customers could hold off on reviewing for a year, then leverage it to get the seller to provide out-of-warranty service.

Not sure what their time limit is, this is the case for it. In any case, good customer service still means a human reviewing and deciding if it's appropriate at the edge cases of policy.


I think OP is saying they hadn't even received the product within the review window.


This is why centralized marketplaces in general are, in my opinion, on the way out. In the future people with something to offer will be able to offer it without being routed through one-size-fits-all platforms who want to control your options for communication, payment, reputation, shipping, etc. in a "my way or the highway" attitude. If one takes this perspective, then Ebay, Taobao, and Etsy are all anachronisms, though Amazon has smartly enhanced delivery speeds by focusing on logistics and will therefore maintain relevance. Why can't I barter for goods? Why can't I route around Paypal, credit cards, or USD? In the future, these will be normal consumer decisions.


Where will they get traffic? That's a fundamental reason people choose marketplaces like etsy in the first place and it's not easy to replicate without a lot of experience or luck.


i dunno, people like those centralized solutions because managing communication, payment, reputation, shipping, etc. are a huge pain in the ass.

i mean even if you look at major alternatives to etsy (like shopify), they still are "centralized" in that regard.

buyers also need some sort of discovery platform - even if it's just google, then google becomes the centralized platform, no?


> buyers also need some sort of discovery platform

These platforms exist in all sorts of places outside of marketplaces. Pinterest is essentially bookmarks for shopping. Ditto Wanelo (and other similar sites for different demographics/verticals). Certain Instagram networks are all about products. Babylist is to baby showers what The Knot is to bridal showers. And these are just what I can think of off the top of my head.

Greenhorn merchants love marketplaces b/c they want to market themselves at any cost. But I'm close with several former Etsy sellers who, once they achieved traction with their products, decided to build their brands on their own and not compete toe-to-toe with copycat sellers (which drove them bezerk, btw). Shopify + Facebook ads + Instagram can go a very long way.


> Pinterest is essentially bookmarks for shopping

except they're trying to capitalize on the marketplace part too: https://about.pinterest.com/en/shopping-pinterest

> Certain Instagram networks are all about products

ditto: http://blog.business.instagram.com/post/152598788716/shoppin...

> former Etsy sellers who, once they achieved traction with their products, decided to build their brands on their own and not compete toe-to-toe with copycat sellers

yeah, this is etsy's real problem - they do a bad job of keeping top sellers on the platform. i haven't seen much attrition because of copycats, but more that etsy is just a really bad platform for managing a big shop. the fact that your sellers went to shopify is, to me, just evidence of that.


Centralized is never on the way out. It just makes everything so easy.

I don't like it, but saying that anything centralized is on the way out is just wishful thinking.


You forget the successes of decentralization. In the same way that bureaucracy was surpassed with the web, torrents, and Bitcoin, so too will it be surpassed eventually in the field of business and consumer supply chains. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen.


The web is increasingly centralized; torrents both centralized themselves and were displaced by centralized services.


Bureaucracy has been surpassed? This is yet more wishful thinking ...


It has, in terms of publishing.


> In the same way that bureaucracy was surpassed with the web, torrents, and Bitcoin

Temporarily?


I looked into this, because a bracelet I bought for my wife looked great on Etsy, but when it arrived, it was obviously shitty chinese-knock-off quality

Here is the bracelet I bought as a gift, $52

https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1238204808

Here is the same fucking thing, on AliExpress for $6.52 a piece, or you can buy them in lots of 6 for $20.

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/24k-Gold-Electroplated-Edge-...

fucking fuck.


I'll make you something next time you're looking.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/DesertFoxMinerals

I actually go out and mine 95% of my material, refine it myself, and make it myself. I teach lapidary classes for California's oldest mineralogical society.


Your etsy link doesn't work for me


It’s a transaction ID rather than a link to the actual seller’s page.


Or me


It's bizarre to see how Etsy went from producing a significant amount of technical software and community engagement a few years ago and then suddenly stopped. Their GitHub is a testament to this sudden dropoff. Was there anything ever mentioned about why they went from super public about things like dashboarding to nothing?


former etsy employee here:

lots of reasons, but around that time etsy invested heavily in infrastructure and tools like statsd resulted from it.

the last few years the focus has been mostly on product, and product teams usually don't produce the kind of significant technology contributions you're talking about (huge generalization there obviously).

this is more of a personal opinion, but my experience was that the last few years etsy has focused less on technical solutions to problems and more on "people solutions" - if something is inefficient they look for non-technical solutions to that problem, sometimes fruitlessly. as you can imagine in that environment, things like statsd don't get made.


I just assumed everyone booked it after the IPO.


not really. some people, but very few all things considered.


Code as Craft was one of the best engineering blogs ever at a time when the concept was pretty rare.


Wow, what a flashback !

Code as Craft was one of my favorite blogs back when I was a junior dev.


The CTO left in 2015. He was a big open source guy so I wouldn't be surprised if that had an impact.


And you think the new CTO, John Allspaw, was less of an OSS fan?


A scenario where a new 'top dog' enters and proposes the solution to all problems™: let's measure our conversions, optimize this and that and make more sales. By the way, all this time you're developing open source you're not helping the company so let's stop that, it costs us developer time and money.

It's not unfeasible.

It would be a scenario that could explain both portfolio degradation and community leave, and not too uncommon. Of course, it could be unrelated and this is just speculation.


> By the way, all this time you're developing open source you're not helping the company so let's stop that, it costs us developer time and money.

that was not my experience at all. officially, open source was encouraged because it raised etsy's stock in the tech community, which was beneficial for hiring.

unofficially, middle managers discouraged it because it detracted from shipping quickly (which made them look good to upper management).

obviously the CTO/etc. could've just been paying the engineers lip service about open source, but they seemed to genuinely support and encourage open source contributions. they certainly celebrated when open source contributions actually happened.


The (former) CEO seemed like a tech guy at heart and I think he was the CTO before being promoted. I met him a couple times at hackathons around 2009 and he was definitely not a suit guy. I doubt it was just lip service.


Thanks for taking the time to write this!


I can only add my experience with etsy on the affiliate side. TheHunt.com previously sent them significant traffic (as in, hundreds of thousands of visitors) via their affiliate program. We then got a email that they were going to change our rates to be something like 5x less than our current rates because we were high volume. Needless to say we removed every etsy product on our site and replaced them with amazon/farfetch/etc.. products within a week. We actually ended up tripling our revenue off of the etsy traffic so I am glad it happened.

It did show a lack of appreciation for traffic on their end they were so willing to let us go without a fight. No room to budge on rates or even suggest a alternative- Not sure if that was management or department based decision but it was certainly enlightening.


Affiliate marketing involves so much scams and tricks that I can understand they are limiting it.


I spend a lot of time with Etsy sellers, all one-person micro-businesses creating fully-handcraft items.

They tell me there are three major problems that are all interconnected: 1) search is poor, 2) cheap knockoffs swamp the search results, 3) there's no obvious way to emphasize truly handcraft items.

All the sellers are experimenting with alternate platforms, such as Shopify, Wordpress, Wix, etc.



You have only half the picture because the three problems you've listed have existed for quite some time.

Here are some new problems that are driving more sellers off Etsy:

4) October 2013: Etsy redefines "handcrafted" and allows Etsy sellers to get "help" with making and shipping their items. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/opinion/etsys-industrial-r...

5) September 2015: Etsy openly embraces mass manufacturing https://www.wired.com/2015/09/etsy-embraces-mass-manufacturi...

6) October 2016: Etsy forces sellers to enroll in Google Shopping ads and spend their own money promoting their items. On the surface it looks innocent enough but most sellers are not sophisticated enough to run their own ad campaigns. They expected Etsy to provide that service as a marketplace. With no traffic coming in from Google any more, sales have tanked. https://blog.etsy.com/news/2016/introducing-google-shopping-...

7) April 2017: Etsy forces sellers to direct all revenue to Etsy's own bank account (no more Paypal), or the seller can't sell on Etsy any more. https://www.etsy.com/teams/7716/announcements/discuss/183258... The deadline to comply is May 17 so expect many shops to die on May 18 because shop owners are loath to turn over their bank account information and personal identity proof to Etsy. https://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/discussions/discuss/18322006...

I can confirm that I know at least one seller who set up their shop on Shopify in January this year.

Here are some current Etsy forum threads discussing the situation from the point of view of the buyer as well as the seller:

Josh Silverman, Here's What You need to Know from Sellers https://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/discussions/discuss/18351569...

Out of curiosity... reasons you won't buy from etsy stores? https://www.etsy.com/teams/7722/discussions/discuss/18232946...


And... 8) Artists and craftsmen creating legitimate handcrafted products are under assault of [Chinease] mass manufacturers that appear to monitor items/craftsmen whose items sell fairly well only to offer their el-cheapo counterfeit / knock-off alternative of these same products. (*

This at least appears to be the case for a friend that is selling his handcrafted stuff in Etsy. And at least his experience seems to be that Etsy has done very little to curb this behavior even when reported to them.

(* caveat emptor - hearsay


Yup, I've had a lot of stuff I make by hand get copied. Now my store has only a single listing up, and I use the Etsy app to show that item for sale and then de-list it when I make the sale. No sales actually happen online through Etsy. Makes my store stats look bad but I need to protect my designs.


So where do you actually make the sale? On your own website?


I basically use Etsy as a mobile storefront so I can display wares to people via my phone. Sale happens cash-in-hand, check, or credit card (I had to get my own reader since Etsy would never send me my plug-in card reader) then I just remove the listing on Etsy.


Yeah, discovery is awful, and it's really hard to distinguish fakes.


I browsed and bought a lot of stuff off Etsy about 5 years ago. Anymore it's hard to find anything decent unless I discover someone's Etsy store by some other means. Which is becoming less and less frequent. I don't think I've purchased anything there for maybe a year.


My sister sells handmade art on etsy and she's seen a big drop in sales recently, and she's been looking at other places to sell on, where do you go to buy these things these days?


Not sure if it's related to this, but I was scheduled to have an interview with them on 1/24/2017 for a Full Stack position, and an hour before our scheduled time, they sent me an email that "due to some changes in hiring priority this role is currently on hold", and cancelled the interview.

I wasn't too impressed :)


I interviewed with them just a few months ago for an analytics role - very friendly and intelligent people. I was impressed. #anecdotes


This should have happened sooner but it took longer than they expected to knit a pink slip.


Based on reading through all the comments, it sounds like Etsy should've never gone public. A lot of people saw this coming a mile away.


eh, etsy should've never gone public because etsy was trying to be a company that put "people above profits", which is extremely difficult to do as a public company. market backlash against that kind of sentiment is severe. see also: american airlines.


I scraped all the Etsy stores about 4 years ago and ~80% of stores had never sold more than 20 items. Ever. In aggregate over several years for many stores.

They started as "people above profits" but in reality it was all resellers because that's what did volume. They turned the other cheek and allowed them to take over. They eventually changed policies and alienated a lot of real artisans. That strategy boosted revenue of course but removed their core differentiator.

It's hard to turn down revenue and growth, even moreso when investors are involved. But like most empires, you eventually fall from overextension.


What's the deal with the "Activist investor" that is forcing these changes? Is this a common thing in the investment world? Does anyone have deeper insight into this?


Yahoo is a basic example of activist investing. Activist investors try to increase shareholder value in the companies they invest in, in any way possible, to achieve above average returns for their investors.

If that means burning down the house (e.g. selling a company in bits and pieces, or pushing certain strategic changes) then they will.

Apple has plenty of cash on their books. If an activist shareholder could somehow force them to spend all that cash on buybacks (-> significant share price increase), they can make a nice buck that way. That's actually what Carl Icahn did, over the last few years.


Yahoo was a bloated carcass by the time activist investors got involved. Cutting the fat, selling off parts, and returning some value to investors was the only fair outcome.


Yahoo stock price went up 400% in 5 years. Investors made out quite well.


... almost entirely off their stake in BABA. YHOO was effectively just an ETF invested in just one stock, their actual business had negative value.


Meaning it was a good activist play? It was trading negatively because there was a chance Yahoo management would sell that BABA stake, and use that money to fund their operating business.


It's a common thing. Simplifying you have passive investors who will try to invest in companies that are well managed and leave them to it and activist investors who will look for companies that are badly managed (and thus cheaper than they "should" be) and then pressure them to make changes.


Activist investors who want changes in business model or cost are extremely common. Just about every publicly traded company has to deal with one at some point.


> "We are fully prepared to take any actions we believe are necessary to protect the best interests of all Etsy shareholders."

What exactly are they insinuating?


fuck everyone else who isn't a shareholder, especially you


If Etsy can't fix discoverability it's dead. It's the only problem. There's so much low quality, zero effort, dropshipped crap that there's no real value to the platform anymore.


On a related note, how is Pinterest doing? How long can it survive as an independent social network. It focuses solely on one thing but how much is that pie growing?


I try to avoid Pinterest at all cost (as a user), it's filled with crap these days.


Thing is, even my favorite Etsy artists (I have bought five Unicorgis from Squidbrains...) I have found via social media and not through Etsy. If they were selling on their own website, Shopify or whatnot, my willingness to buy and discovery process would be the same. I just do not see the value in Etsy. I am sure there is some but I do not know what.


Maybe ignorant question. Why would one choose Etsy over Amazon


Well, a consumer generally visits Amazon for cheap, not quality, goods. Etsy is supposed to be the place a consumer goes to purchase small batch, hand made, custom items.


Which, from my experience, isn't the case anymore. It's people selling cheap Chinese charms on some string.


Etsy was originally a marketplace for artisan or custom goods that would allow you to buy directly from the artists/craftsmen.


And now that they aren't, there's new opportunity for a marketplace for artisan goods perhaps. Heh.


That you would even ask that is exactly why they are failing.


Custom orders. I just had a rubber stamp created from an illustrator file via Etsy.


I've put basically no work in marketing and no money in advertising yet I've got a lot of sales already in the last few years. I really hope they stick around a long time! eventually I want to take my shop seriously.


What are you selling?


Is there any kind of conflict of interest when a board member names themselves CEO? Or is this considered OK in corporate governance circles? (Or is just "Beware when swimming with the sharks"?)


He is interim CEO. This is very common when a CEO is fired and there is no one internal to the company who is appropriate to take over. Someone has to do the job so the board member does it for a while while they look for someone to hire.


I really think the start of a lot of marketplaces closing down. Facebook has become so easy to use and quick to list it will be dominant one


Etsy alternative: https://www.thegrommet.com/


I moved away from Etsy once I started comparing prices to EBay . Products on Etsy is overpriced for some reason.


Always dreadful to hear this.

Years of best practices in product/engineering in blogs (DevOps, I also remember their endless scrolling A/B tests!), youtube, conferences, then product doesn't work, company fires people.


No monthly who's firing thread for may?


There was one today, but it seems to have disappeared.



[flagged]


This is race trolling. We ban accounts that do things like that, so please don't do anything like that again.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14251703 and marked it off-topic.


Quality can only exist when people are willing to pay for it. And often, they are not. Making money in that case is not a deficincy, but a skill.

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