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Welcome to the ‘Sharing Economy’ (nytimes.com)
166 points by pg on July 20, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments

The sharing economy is great for anyone who thinks bankruptcy is a cool idea. If you share your home with someone, they can sue you for arbitrarily reasons. If you share your car with someone, and they get into an accident, the victims (or "victims") can sue you for arbitrary reasons.

(Yes the services provide liability insurance, but the caps are well below awards that are commonly made in accident cases. Just trawl some websites of ambulance chaser lawyers to see what I mean)

EDIT: NO this cannot be solved with "boilerplate waivers". YES it's a shame. Try to find a lawyer who is willing to share his car over the Internet. You can't. Because they know.

EDIT: As for jurisdictions, I'm referring to the US. California is probably close to worst case.

This is an excellent point that people miss when talking about the 'sharing economy'

The difference in price between equivalent quality airBnBs and traditional hotels can be attributed to a few things:

1) Difference in demand due to people being more comfortable in anonymous hotels

2) Inherent efficiency in 'sharing', because the owner was going to own the property whether or not they rent it out.

3) Corruption. Unfair zoning and political influence of hotel industry.

4) The risk that you mention is priced into hotel rooms, but not into airBnBs.

5) External costs. The negative impact on the neighborhood (traffic, noise, damage) caused by high-turnover renters. Hotels pay some of this through extra taxes and regulation, while sharers pay none of it.

Now to the extent the price difference is made up of 1,2, and 3, the sharing economy is great. We are moving towards a more efficient marketplace, with lower prices and better quality for everyone.

The trouble is, the hotel industry is already pretty competitive. So I would guess that a good amount of the price difference actually resides in 4 and 5, in which case the sharing economy is saving travelers money and taking it out of the pocket of the hosts and local communities.

Excellent points, although what do you mean by #3?

My impression was that the hotel industry is subjected to regulation, as opposed to it wielding power.

In addition to regulation, many states and localities impose significant taxes on hotel stays. For example, the theoretically low-tax Texas has a 6% state hotel tax [1], but localities also levy taxes on top of that, bringing the total to often 15%.

[1] http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/hotel/

I assume it meant zoning that limits the number of hotels that can be built in a particular municipality. I also assume he meant to suggest that established players attempt to limit the growth of competition by being in favor of regulation (permits, zoning restrictions, business licenses) that makes it difficult to enter their market.

Couldn't this be solved with simple boilerplate waivers?

It really is a shame that litigiousness has become so bad. My folks had to stop letting neighbor kids use their zip-line when they learned they could be sued and lose everything if anyone hurt themselves.

A waiver will not solve the issue of negligence. What is considered negligent? Well it is not definable in any given terms. So someone sues you for having black mold in your attic and now they are permanently disabled for staying in your house for two weeks. You didn't know it was there, but you should have. someone trips and falls in your kitchen the tile is 1/96 of an inch uneven, you are negligent. Someone's kid gets scalded in your bathtub, it's your fault because that hot water heater that you just had replaced was too hot.

You can never be safe, any waiver saying "I will not sue this land owner for any reason no matter what" is worthless because even if they did sigh it, it would be deemed illegal.

Good luck.

As you mention in edit, airbnb is not a US only service. I have no stats to prove that, but I've always been under the impression that suing is some kind of national sport in the US : it may not be that bad for the rest of the world.

An other thing I think : US certainly won't stay behind if it becomes a sufficient economical force in the rest of the world. They will adapt their laws.

The sharing economy is great.

However, what seems to be broken is the legal system in the place you live.

Is this true for most jurisdictions? That doesn't seem like the kind of law that lends itself to being universal.

I love love love AirBNB. I host w/ my apartment in NYC and it's enabled me to travel around the world this year and still have a home base when I need it. I've used AirBNB a lot in those travels.

BUT (there's always a 'but' isn't there). I'm skeptical. On two fronts:

First, it's becoming increasingly difficult to make reservations as a guest in a nice place unless you're planning 4-6 months ahead of time. Some people have the luxury of doing that, many do not. I've just taken reservations for both Xmas and New Year's eve at my place in NYC and it's barely the end of July.

As a guest, this irks me. I spent 3 weeks in London recently, booked the trip about a month in advance, and tried to no avail to find a place on AirBNB -- nada. All the nice places had been snapped up months ago, and the ones that were left were either shady brokers or absolute crap (it makes sense -- I wanted a 3 week booking. If a nice place had even a 1-day booking in that window, the whole place was unavailable). I ended up booking on HomeAway or FlipKey or one of their competitors.

Second, I feel in some sense, the tide is turning the other way on the regulation front. I've been lucky with my place in NYC in that I'm in an AirBNB-friendly building and I've had extremely good luck in getting terrific guests. But the regulatory environment is not AirBNB-friendly and it's getting less so. Several people who used to host in NYC have stopped doing so for fear (irrational or otherwise) of running afoul of the law.

I tried to host w/ my apartment in SF and within 72 hours of posting the listing, I received a very strongly-worded C&D letter from the building's management company staff attorney. They had someone in the office who constantly scanned for listings on AirBNB and came down hard and fast. Others have reported similar stories from HOAs and management companies.

So of course I want nothing but the best for AirBNB - I've a happy customer on both sides. But I don't think it's such a slam dunk as many seem to think it is...

You'll be happy to hear then that their growth continues to be excellent. (And no, unfortunately, I can't give the numbers. But it's the sort of growth you can get only from some underlying wave of change.)

>Second, I feel in some sense, the tide is turning the other way on the regulation front

Not to start a flame war, but I think this discussion is pretty prevalent with things like Uber and other 'disruptive' services: should we spend time thinking about why regulations are in place? I'm pretty sure a lot of the rules in leases about not doing airbnb is because most people don't want their neighbors running a hotel and it can cause prices to go up for people looking to live in an area (because of people potentially running a whole "network" of these).

It's good to hear you're getting terrific guests, but I think it's important to acknowledge that some of the rules are there for a reason too( not saying you don't think so).

I saw a bright lightbulb above my head for a moment: a paid service for $99 per month (or whatever!) and we will daily/weekly monitor if any of your properties/tenants are listed on BnB. Optional service for extra buck: we will mail them C&D letter (with Realtor logo on it, of course) to violators. I can see a brilliant marketing campaign and can imagine many Realtors signing up!

Does something like that already exist?

Instead of a C&D, have it track how much your tenants are Airbnbing their place for, then raise rent to that exact amount, minus a 5% cleaning & management fee that is theirs to keep.

I'm gonna guess the correlation between profitable airbnb and rent control is strong.

If you have a rent controlled tenant, catching them subletting is a dream come true.

nostromo can you elaborate on why its a dream come true? what could the landlord do?

Kick them out for breaking the terms of the lease and raise the rent up to current market rate for the next tenant.

This is actually a great idea. (obviously don't check JUST airbnb; vrbo, homeaway, craigslist, etc.) Potentially also watch the news/police for mentions of crime or restraining orders or convictions with tenants, too. As long as the terms of your lease or HOA clearly state what's prohibited, making it easier to enforce this seems like a useful service.

We do not need a company that makes it easier for landlords to wield power over their tenants, or to harass or expel tenants with a checkered past. This idea is a great example of the kind of "efficiency" that the internet produces that gives more power to the powerful.

I agree about checkered past -- I'd be upset if someone rented to a tenant, did a background check after movein, and then evicted for historical behavior. Most of this is covered by housing law already -- you probably couldn't evict someone who was already a tenant because you found out he had been evicted 3 years ago for murdering his landlord or less implausible stuff.

I'm talking about present things, though -- if someone is actively subletting your property or using it as a hotel, or actively using it to run a drug retail business, etc. Knowing current restraining orders could be useful for security (although arguably the tenant should report those if it's a multi-unit complex) -- there's less of an argument for that. There probably would be for things like the sex offender list, though.

In California it can take up to 6 months to evict a problematic (and frequently non-paying) tenant, so any kind of efficiency would boost the availability of properties to tenants who have no such problems.

Yes, evictions have been made difficult because of the enormous power difference between a landlord and a tenant. You really think that's a bad thing?

edit: typo

End of the day it's all priced in - other renters pay inflated prices to compensate for a few bad apples.

So yeah, it's kinda a bad deal for those who always pay on time - they're measured against the same risk as a rando off the street, which is why a rental application today can involve a background check and employment reference.

Given that the people I (and the startup scene in general) selfishly want in the Bay Area are largely younger, immigrant (from abroad or other parts of the country), or otherwise don't have a long credit history, and haven't been living in rent controlled apartments for a long time, it seems pretty clear where self interest lies, here, too.

Of course, Prop 13 screws the same people -- a 55 year old state worker who has lived in his house for 25 years pays ~nothing in property taxes, where a startup person (or really any 23 year old without family property) either pays inflated property tax rates (on a recent purchase; both the percentage rate and dollar value of property are high) directly, or pays them in rent (a person who has owned a house for 40 years can still rent it on the market at the prevailing rate, which is high due to supply constraint and any new supply needing to reflect current purchase and thus tax levels).

I'm all for tenants, in general, vs. landlords, and generally for people beginning their careers vs. incumbents, but rent control doesn't help new households.

> either pays inflated property tax rates (on a recent purchase; both the percentage rate and dollar value of property are high)

Under Prop 13, property tax rates in California are limited to 1% of assessed value. Its true that a new purchaser will pay this on something like the actual current value, unlike someone who has owned for a long time with real appreciation faster than the limited rate of increase of assessed value, but the rate won't be any higher for the recent purchaser.

I meant that for the same total property tax collection, if it were applied to all property at the current value, the rate would be less than 1% for everyone, since "old" properties would have higher assessed values. (although 1% as a property tax isn't inherently bad; I'd prefer 1-2% property tax or a higher rate as LVT, and correspondingly lower income, corporate, and capital gains taxes, and/or better quality state services)

Whether it exists or not, someone should apply to YC with this idea just to give PG & co a good laugh.

Why would you want to be a force for something like that? Spend your energy doing something productive. I think Airbnb has an honest mission and the legality will hopefully work itself out. I guess if you're just looking to make a quick buck, maybe. But then why not go into finance or something, rather than build a startup that aims to hurt startups?

Force for what? For preventing contractually-prohibited uses of my property? That sounds like a fine application, even if it doesn't match your worldview.

I own a home (remote, long story). I hope my property manager monitors my realestate in this fashion. Legally, I'm on the hook for all sorts of eventualities and insurance related to the property (eg. fire and perhaps even injury). I'm not willing to foot the extra risk (or bills!) of having a tenant inviting itinerant AirBnB visitors -- that's why subleasing is not permitted by my contract with the leasee.

Would I be happy with an alternative that yields higher net returns than a property manager? Absolutely. Do I want it done on my property against my permission? Hell no.

Agreed. I really don't understand the sense of entitlement that people have when it comes to doing things that are specifically against the lease they signed upon renting and apartment (or against the CC&Rs of the HOA they willing bought into).

Just FYI, the first url in your profile is spelled wrong.

Great idea btw :)

Thanks, fixed that

Posted this on firespotting - there is definitely a small profitable business in your idea -

"Second, I feel in some sense, the tide is turning the other way on the regulation front."

If a business makes sense, and consumers get a taste of it and have positive experiences, it's very hard to stop[1]. Institutional inefficiencies usually only last when better solutions are adequately hidden from consumers.

I was pretty skeptical of AirBnb a while ago because I underestimated the effectiveness of trust and rating systems. I thought that the initial excitement was really just because the system masked the risks people were taking. I should have known from eBay that it can be done.

If they do have the trust thing worked out pretty well, then it's a very solid business model. Net travel from any one city is generally close to zero[2], so having a ton of hotels is pretty inefficient.

(I'm not an airbnb user, but I see why it's appealing.)

[1] It could really only be stopped if airbnb were somehow vilified. For instance, if newspapers started running stories like "downtown overrun by out-of-town vandals using airbnb" (just to give an absurd example).

[2] It varies seasonally, of course, which might mean that there are more people in tourist areas in the summer, causing a need for things like hotels. But many tourist destinations are also major cities, with their own residents leaving on holiday as well.

By "institutional inefficiencies" you must be referring to the leases that apartment renters sign that state no subletting, or HOAs that most condo owners willing enter into that have similar restrictions.

If anyone reading this comment wonders, "HOAs" seems to be "Home Owner Association" which according to Wikipedia is a type of corporation in the United States - that are usually setup by real estate developers for the purpose of "marketing, managing and selling of homes and lots in a residential subdivision".

By setting up a "HOA", the real estate developer gets certain privileges that easies their exit and transferring of the property to the residents.


Of course, there are some details that might cause problems. A landlord might expect more headaches and confusion from someone subletting the place, and may want to raise the rent to compensate.

Also, just because it's inefficient doesn't mean that it's easy to solve. Copyright is obviously inefficient, but not easy to solve.

"First, it's becoming increasingly difficult to make reservations as a guest in a nice place unless you're planning 4-6 months ahead of time. Some people have the luxury of doing that, many do not. I've just taken reservations for both Xmas and New Year's eve at my place in NYC and it's barely the end of July."

Have you heard about supply and demand...

There is going to be a head on collision between current government regulations and this rise of social sharing. Airbnb vs the entrenched hotel industry. Uber vs the taxi commissions.

I, for one, welcome it. It's time the market voiced their opinion over how much value these groups provide.

For example, take internet. Right now everyone can get cable/dsl but in many contracts it is against their terms to share it. I understand why because a lot of their #s are based around utilization. But I still feel in some way taken advantage of.

> Airbnb vs the entrenched hotel industry really? Entrenched? Aren't all industries entrenched in that sense?

I can get the hate for taxi commissions but last I checked hotels are a pretty good service.

Not just social sharing, I am amazed how many regulations there are that protect businesses from disruption by other businesses. For example, Tesla cannot sell cars in Arizona, because it is against the law for a manufacturer to sell a car directly to a consumer:


And yet, that regulation was probably created for a good reason, to protect consumers from car companies selling cars that they had no way of servicing effectively if something went wrong with the car or if there was a recall.

Maybe Tesla has found a way of profitably selling cars and servicing them without a dealer network and the law should be changed. Or, maybe Tesla just isn't big enough to have had that problem yet.

That regulation affects not just Tesla, but all car makers. Tesla is certainly innovative, but these restrictions have nothing to do with that innovation; gas-guzzling SUVs cannot be sold direct-to-consumer either.

"In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread."

- Anatole France, Le Lys Rouge [The Red Lily] (1894), ch. 7

But Tesla is the only car manufacturer without dealers so they're the only one that can challenge the law without destroying their existing sales channel.

If you think Airbnb is big now, just wait.

I'm 27. Most people I know have not stayed in an Airbnb rental, or considered becoming hosts. They haven't heard of it, or they're reluctant to stay with a stranger.

Eventually, positive word of mouth will convince them to try. They just have to like it once and they'll do it again.

Friedman tried to paint Airbnb as massive, but all I can think about it how tiny it still is compared to the global hotel industry.

You may say that for use case X, a hotel would be better. Fine. But I'd estimate 80% of the market hasn't tried Airbnb, and X% of them will switch once they do.

There has been somewhat of a stigma associated with it. I was the guy telling my friend in Illinois about it when we were planning a trip to LA with some other friends. I also told my parents when we were planning a vacation. Once you experience it, it's awesome and people will talk about it.

You can find this pattern in other markets, like online dating. A lot of people were initially hesitant (and still are), so there are social forces at work. Once the lid comes off that, I think it'll blow up.

I have the urge to box Airbnb into this "paid couch-surfing" category, but that's not really what they are. They positioned their company as something greater than that: all of the services that went along with their experience. Funny enough, the investors didn't buy it because they were tunnel visioned by how big it could be and whether it would scale at the seed stage. Those are the wrong questions to be asking at seed, and actually I don't think many founders could have pulled off starting Airbnb. The team clearly was the overriding factor in Airbnb working, followed by their excitement to be doing that startup.

I liked the Subject: Airbnb "essay" which showed how true this was (http://paulgraham.com/airbnb.html).

Once you experience it, it's awesome and people will talk about it.

Why is it so flatly awesome? My experience was: overpriced room (overpriced because the high airbnb fees get passed on to the person who stays), annoying extra "cleaning/deposit" fees that don't get refunded (and you're not notified that they didn't get refunded), and a quasi-too-personal system of booking where half the listings are by weirdos ("RENT A ROOM IN MAH CAMPER ON THE STREET!") you can't filter out or fake listings nobody responds to.

It's squarely not in my "things that make me happy" column.

Did you have a single experience?

I came to Airbnb with prior couchsurfing experience. You learn how to distinguish good listings from bad. Every single one of my Airbnb experiences has been both inexpensive and awesome.

Some markets are tougher though. Manhattan is extremely expensive. Most other cities seem fine.

I had the opposite experience. I was moving to New York City, had been staying with a friend, decided it was high time to move out, and found a single bedroom in a really nice penthouse in east Williamsburg for the short term for... barely more than I was paying to commute to and from my friend's place in White Plains on the train. More convenient, too.

(Granted, it was something like a fifth-floor walk-up, and the neighborhood was a little gritty, but in the edgy-up-and-coming cool-if-you're-into-that sort of way and not the help-get-me-out-of-here fear-for-your-life drug-dealers-on-the-doorstep kind of way.)

I can only expect that I'd be out another few hundred bucks if I used a traditional hotel.

Exactly! Saying "airbnb is good" by itself is meaningless. It's a product of the context of experiences sustained over multiple interactions. If you're renting $500/night rooms in Upscale Town, USA, you'll probably love it like you love your $800 shoes and your $3000 jeans. If you're renting $40/night rooms in NYC, you'll probably hate it.

Irrational exuberance of startups around here tends to get out of hand. I get it. Everybody is the friend of a rich person and you want to promote them because you know them. hi-5's and bropong all around. Great. But they're still delusional. Gotta speak truth to ego-elevating unrestricted happiness. Life is pain, not million dollar post-exit condos in SF.

Were there hidden fees that you didn't see? I filter by price and feedback, so I know the hosts are legit. The cleaning fees are shown on the listing. They show you response rate, so you know if the hosts are active or not. You won't always receive a response, but that's why I never message people who have no reviews or a low response rate. They may just be trying it out casually ("window shoppers"). My experiences have been very positive when I've used it--which isn't that often, but when I do, I no longer even consider hotels.

Well, the fees do get paid whether they're listed externally or not. If the fees are $250, then the lister is just jacking up the listed price by $250.

The cleaning fees had some wording like "if necessary" or "if damage is done," but it was never returned or communicated nothing would be returned.

(Sidenote: There's also no recourse or discount for "weirdness." The lady whose second bedroom I rented had her non-english-speaking mother stay for two weeks (unannounced, unasked--suddenly there was just someone new living there) whose hobbies included power sanding furniture starting about two hours before daylight and taking up the entire kitchen for five hours a day.)

The response rate things are okay, but there are still tons of people who cannot communicate effectively online (or even form coherent thoughts in person most days). It's a crapshoot. (Kinda like trying to sell things on craigslist -- you never realize how many weirdos are out there until you have something they want. "Yoooooo maaan... will you take some pot for tha xbox? we aint got no monay.")

I think you had a bad experience with that one listing -- and the proper recourse is to write an honest review, just as you would on Yelp for an experience that wasn't what you were expecting. This helps prevent it from happening in the future.

That's tricky too, isn't it? You're writing a public review with your name attached directly about another person, in public, with their name attached. I'm not comfortable doing that at all.

Hell, I'm not comfortable reviewing an air mattress I bought on amazon.

The AirBnB founders are one of the hardest working teams I've ever seen. When you think of all the incredible feats they pulled off in the beginning, it's hard to conceive of another team managing it.

Suure, and its not the first time either!


This is HN. Anything goes in the name of growing a startup!

(including, but not limited to: rampant cross-site promotional spam, dead baby jokes, rambling on about how you overcame such adversity all the way from your $40,000/year private high school, follow-the-bouncing-ball upvote rings to promote insiders higher on the front page of Marketing To Nerds and Journalists Daily, and becoming an apologist for other people abusing/lying/cheating/stealing/manipulating things now that they are successful and you're afraid of them politically.)

I don't know about hard-working, but my impression after meeting the founders was that they were clueless stuffed-shirts who have no idea why their idea created a community of authentic enthusiasts - and they're desperately trying to cash out without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

As someone who knows them well, I can tell you that you're so mistaken that it makes me wince. The Airbnbs are among the most earnest and dedicated founders we've funded.

That's possible! Can you hire them an image coach or acting classes or some sort of interpersonal communication coaching, though? I turned down a job offer from them because of how inauthentic several of the airbnb's office personalities (not only the founders: some of the staff, too) seemed to be.

Earnestly and dedicatedly inducing people to break their contractual obligations, fall afoul of local hotel regulations, and make life suck a little more for their neighbors.

They're not nice people.

I'm having trouble replying to this comment, having met Brian in 2009 and later interviewing him for a book. I am wondering if you are confusing them with some other founders.

Some people are still turned off by online dating.

I'm not sure why this is downvoted. That stigma in dating is still alive and strong today, and Airbnb is still stigmatized for some of the younger people I know outside of Silicon Valley. Part of the article talks about trust, which is pretty important. Both couch-surfing and dating have lacked identity and trust, which makes it more comfortable. The last thing you want is for someone to axe murder you or spike your drink and not know who it was. If you get axe murdered, knowing who it was is your last concern, but at least it acts as an enormous deterrent. Identity is the reason places like Hacker News don't completely degrade to the rules of Crowd Psychology (well, most of the time).

That friend in Illinois was very uncomfortable with the idea of sleeping in some random person's house, and I didn't realize how absurd it sounded until I was listening to myself explain it to him and his very uncertain reaction. The reputation/trust element removes that "randomness." So much so that I won't book with listings that don't have any reviews, and I tell my friends the same thing.

That comment, while accurate, was almost literally just rephrasing something already in the comment it replied to[1], yet presented it as some kind of rebuttal. It doesn't look like the poster had really read what they were replying to.

Personally, I think the "weird factor" around AirBNB will probably be harder to erode than the one around online dating. I think the existing hotel industry comes a lot closer to meeting a wide range of people's needs for accommodations than the standard informal "go out to a bar or meet people through mutual friends" thing does, and for someone like me, who travels fairly infrequently, I don't mind spending more once or twice a year to have that extra identity/trust from the known quantity of an actual hotel.

[1]"A lot of people were initially hesitant (and still are)"

As a homeowner, I can tell you with all sincerity that I'd rather post a "room for rent" sign at my local university than let random strangers with random problems I'm not used to dealing with come crash at my place for a fee.

Airbnb seems very cool as a user of the service, but I'd almost never even think of being a host.

That's fine. Airbnb doesn't need 100% of people to act as hosts.

They just need X% of people who haven't hosted to start hosting.

There's a large amount of people who haven't given the matter as much thought as you have. Some will decide differently.

OH NO! Tom Freedman just invented the Sharing Economy. Be hold for 1000 pages plus book and endless pontifications on virtues of "What I call the Sharing Economy" on the Charlie Rose and other shows.

This year's Le Web London was enjoyed the theme "The Sharing Economy". We showcased something like 15+ startups that are innovating in this space -- and even then we never claimed it was a brand new idea we had created, more it was an emerging trend Le Web Founder Loic Le Meur really tapped into during last year's Burning Man.

Point is in support of parent comment here - this isn't brand new thinking and so anyone writing it as such is bandwagon jumping.

I've never really understood the Tom Friedman backlash. He seems to be a pretty thoughtful, reasonably imaginative writer.

My guess is that it's because he's not a doctrinaire liberal, plus probably the whole Iraq thing.

The backlash exists because most of his writings consist of regurgitated ideas plucked from elsewhere that he attempts to pass off as his own as though he's some sort revolutionary thinker in the modern era. Then he sells tickets to his Friedman Forum for $1K a pop to people who aren't read-well enough to realize as much.

So your issue with Friedman is that he's aggregating, popularizing, and improving the accessibility of new ideas that he himself didn't create?

Sounds like any number of journalists/writers to me.

Do you really feel that he has an attribution issue? He seems to always put the focus on people at the forefront of the change he describes (for example, in this article the focus is on Chesky.) It's not like his articles are some TED like exercise, where he portrays himself as being at the center of making all of these new things happen.

Friedman is a skilled writer, but most of the backlash is from him taking well established ideas and presenting them as if he discovered them. For instance, his books "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" and "The World is Flat" are basically just standard treatises on globalization, but reading them you'd think Friedman has done years of painstaking research to uncover this new, previously unheard of trend.

Not all Friedman books are like that. "From Beirut to Jerusalem" was excellent and should be mandatory reading for anyone who wants to get a better grasp of the conflicts in the middle east.

Possibly he got this article from the Economist. http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21572914-...

Short version: "suck on this."

Long version: http://www.eschatonblog.com/2012/04/one-true-wanker-of-decad...

Thanks for helping me prove my point.

This is sort of a rip of the Economist story: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573104-internet-ever...

I do think it would be more appropriate to call it the 'renting economy' or the 'ending economy,' however. Sharing implies something more equitable than a straight business transaction.

Yep rental economy. Internet lowering of transaction costs is enabling the unbundling of ownership rights to capital/durable goods. AirBnb, facilitating exchange by providing 'trust', which is reducing the asymmetric information between the two negotiating parties.

Sharing Houses is just time shares taken to the logical internet extreme.

What are some other sharing ideas that are out there?

I think women's fashion could benefit from something like this, sharing shoes - dresses, gowns etc. Think of all the money that is spent on weddings, proms, etc.

For the typical man, power tools and machinery. The one guy in town with the Bridgeport will make out like a bandit.

Neighbours let each other borrow sugar or borrow an egg. - There's definitely a location aspect involved in all of this. Vacations are different because you're specifically going to some place far away. Maybe otherwise, you shouldn't focus on a single type of item, and simply connect the nearby community with a focus on sharing any and everything.

I think women's fashion could benefit from something like this

There's a startup in the current batch doing Netflix for women's fashion: http://letote.com. It's quite popular among the women who work for YC.

This idea already exists for women's fashion, it's called 99 dresses: http://www.99dresses.com/

Most remarkable to me is that their success required so few conceptual shifts (but important ones). Time-shares and couchsurfing and vacation rentals already existed. I'll try to remember this the next time I think something's 'obviously' been tried before.

It also seems like there was a large shift in (or discovery of) the willingness of individuals to participate in the way that makes sharing work. I suspect that many other innovations will be primarily social ones enabled by the internet (the watsi model?), and that these will be just as powerful as, say, graphene or spacex.

It also seems like there was a large shift in (or discovery of) the willingness of individuals to participate in the way that makes sharing work.

The "large shift" was when people started getting paid. People will do anything to get paid, including inconveniencing themselves by illegally renting out rooms in their apartments.

I don't really like the term "sharing" applied to airbnb and the like. More like renting out excess capacity, which businesses have been doing since the concept of business first came into being.

It is indeed a misnomer. Services like AirBNB allow for spare personal consumption to be monetized as business would, yet users of it don't want to pay the costs of operating as a business or follow the same rules. EDIT: "The monetizing economy" would probably be a better term, but that doesn't sound as noble.

Hasn't the sharing economy already reached the tipping point?

The ideas in the piece clearly aren't new for most of us on HackerNews, but I would contend they're not really new for many in the general public either.

There have been many mainstream news stories about the sharing economy. And even battles in big cities (SF, NY) over regulation. I would've guessed that this was already on many people's radar.

You'd be surprised. About half the people I talk to under 25 haven't heard of Airbnb yet.

This usually comes up when I tell them what Ycombinator is.

"Have you heard of Dropbox? Airbnb? Reddit?"

Usually one of those three works, but a surprising amount of people don't know what either of the first two are. I even talk to a lot of people who don't know what Reddit is.

They're all obviously mainstream, just not as mainstream as, say, staying in a hotel.

I was having dinner with some college friends recently who hadn't heard of Google's self-driving car. O_o

Friedman only writes things that are obviously true, or that most people would agree with.

I like to think about the "Sharing Economy" kind of like the shift from physical servers to virtual servers. A similar set of principals come into play when you try to make better use of excess memory and CPU cycles VS when you try to make use of nights when your spare room is empty.

What's the airbnb equivalent for renting a drill/lawnmower/weed whacker/snowblower from a neighbor?

For borrowing there's this:


hardwairbnb :)

"can be trusted like a company and provide the services of a company. And once you unlock that idea, it is so much bigger than homes. ... There is a whole generation of people that don’t want everything mass produced. They want things that are unique and personal.” "

Failure of analysis. The reason why people want to trust each other rather than companies is not some weird cultural shift that doesn't exist WRT anti-mass production, its the death of trust in existing big companies. I want a coffee mug. I don't really care how many other copies exist, I'd just like one not made with lead, where the artwork isn't water soluble, and it hasn't been value engineered to fail rapidly. Because of crony capitalism and consolidation, and the careful cooperation of for-profit media also owned by consolidated crony capitalists (in some situations, the same individuals...), those options are not available in the big company mug market. So a system that rates individuals for their production is going to do well if the big companies are unable to provide what individuals are allowed to provide.

The TLDR is a monopolistic command economy (ours) is inherently inefficient. Computers and tech and stuff can make at least some inefficient things, efficient enough.

I don't really care if I'm sleeping in the most unique bedroom in the world... I'm asleep, what do I care. On the other hand, I'd like it to be reasonably clean, no bed bugs, and no one stealing my stuff. I'd feel more ethical if no illegal aliens were being treated inhumanely as part of my experience. And no customer service script readers. The big corporations simply can no longer provide that experience like they could in the past, too bad. Airbnb can provide some trust in that experience. Guess which is growing?

The sharing economy is also known as the collaborative consumption based economy, a directory of websites I found a while a go: http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com/directory/.

Toffler should get some credit for "prosumer," years and years ago.

Looking at Wikipedia, he did get some recognition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosumer#General_meanings.

Can I see some of the castle listings? I'm curious.

EDIT: Sweet...


I like the business concept behind Airbnb because it can apply to so many other industries - which suffers from the mismatch between supply and demand. It definitely helps spawn similar ideas that are set out to help eliminate inefficiencies in the economy. Now there are a lot of start-ups that help you share your car, vacation home, yacht and pretty much whatever you own that you would rather share with someone than let it sit rotting in your garage.

An area of failure in anecdotes about "sharing economy" or specifically airbnb is the locality and individuality of the transactions vs the "big domain name" for the whole thing.

Anecdotes, good or bad, are as pointless as reading nation wide multi thousand tower cell phone company reviews. "Oh, you're looking for a cell phone company (in LA)? Well let me tell you, (multinational) is (terrible|great) (in NYC)."

Reminds me of https://peerby.com/ which is also definitely part of this.

Great concept, but in Marin county I would get a huge fine for doing this. My neighbors would turn on me in a second.

I've had people here for a while - they were homeless. I took them in, helped them stop doing (most) drugs, and taught them a trade.

Nobody in my condo cluster had a problem with it.

And yes I live in Marin.

Can't help but wonder if this is one of those things that will go downhill towards the "dangerous, better not try" once a wider demographic than the early adopter tech crowd gets involved. Like hitch-hiking?

Sharing is caring.

I recently co-founded a startup (http://outpost.travel) that aggregates the 'sharing economy'. So far we've had a great response to it from investors and users. It's been a crazy experience going from idea to MVP to where we are today and I get exactly what they mean when they say to keep an eye on startups/sites like Airbnb/Vayable. Almost all our users hadn't known about Airbnb before we introduced them to the whole P2P travel experience and quite a few then booked experiences, rideshares and place rentals using us. The one think that I am concerned about is that quite a few federal/state tourism agencies are now banning P2P travel as theres no taxes being made and it takes away from bigger chains such as Hilton and Holiday Inn.

I met your co-founder last week at International Startup festival(we were both finalists for the grand prize) you guys are awesome! Keep up the good work!

And there goes the backend... We're fixing the problem should be back in a few min. Sorry about that!

EDIT: Fixed!

Did you really get HNed just from a link in your comment, or was the outage coincidental?

I had top comment on pg's most recent essay; I got an extra 1,500 visitors to a subreddit I mentioned in the comment.

And my comment only rose to the top when the essay was quite far down the frontpage.

The link in this post was top or near top at the time this essay was #1, so I imagine they got quite a few visitors quite fast.

We don't have a dedicated server set up (We got one yesterday but its been having technical issues). Had to disable some features that were requiring too much. I honestly wasn't expecting this much traffic this quickly. I guessed wrong :P

.travel as a top level domain? Nice! How did you go about getting this may I ask?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.travel - I assumed it was one of the new "buy your own TLD" for $200k (http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/20/icann-to-expand-top-level-d...), but apparently .travel has been around for 8 years.

By applying to the .travel Registry Association as a registered business with it's main focus being traveling. Once they accept you, you can register a .travel domain from one of the registrars they provide. There are constant audits and check-ups of your website and in case it changes its focus, the domain can be revoked.

Where do I complain about the false advertising going on over at http://time.travel/ ?


I like the idea of something like this, with a local non-monetary exchange currency.

i read the title as "welcome to the sharding economy" - oops - but still, looking fwd to reading that post somewhere.

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