Etsy is making significant policy changes today that will offer sellers more flexibility and convenience than ever before. But the new guidelines, which allow the sale of items produced entirely by "manufacturing partners," may also change what Etsy's users love about the site: its homemade, indie feel. But according to CEO Chad Dickerson, it's a necessary change. "When Etsy started, we relied on one word to carry all our values out into the world: handmade," he wrote in a blog post detailing the new policies. "Almost immediately, that was a problem."
The new rules allow products to be labeled "handmade" so long as the original idea for that item — or its "authorship" as Dickerson says — comes from its respective seller. Further, Etsy businesses can now bring on as many helping hands as they deem necessary (and even hire workers in different locations). And sellers can finally ship orders via third-party couriers rather than the post office.
More flexibility, but at what cost?
According to the company's CEO, many users felt hamstrung by the old policies, criticizing them as confusing and overly restrictive. "Some sellers chose to work punishing hours to maintain a one-person shop, thinking that if they hired help, they would get kicked off the site," he said. Others "quietly began to bend the rules, hoping that no one would really notice." But Etsy is determined not to move away from its reputation completely. Sellers that wish to partner with outside businesses will need to apply for the company's approval by the start of 2014. As part of that process, they'll need to be completely transparent about where and how their items are being produced. Dickerson also notes that, even as the company works to make things clearer for its seller community, there's bound to be pushback. Speaking to All Things D, he said, "Policy changes can’t make everyone happy,”