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Welcome To the 'Sharing Economy' 153

Posted by Soulskill
from the sharing-is-monetarily-equivalent-to-caring dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Thomas Friedman writes in the NY Times about the economy that's grown around Airbnb, a company built on helping people rent out their unused rooms to other users. He writes, 'Airbnb has also spawned its own ecosystem — ordinary people who will now come clean your home, coordinate key exchanges, cook dinner for you and your guests, photograph rooms for rent, and through the ride-sharing business Lyft, turn their cars into taxis to drive you around. "It used to be that corporations and brands had all the trust," added [CEO Brian Chesky], but now a total stranger, "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."' Friedman refers to this as the 'sharing economy,' but a 'trust economy' seems more apt. He points this out himself: 'Afterward, guests and hosts rate each other online, so there is a huge incentive to deliver a good experience because a series of bad reputational reviews and you're done. Airbnb also automatically provides $1 million in insurance against damage or theft to nearly all of its hosts (some countries have restrictions) and only rarely gets claims. This framework of trust has unlocked huge value from unused bedrooms.'"
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Welcome To the 'Sharing Economy'

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    sounds neat, but I wonder if its gonna last...
    corporations will finnd a way to get rid of them, or the system will itself sink in a swamp of administration

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seems more like an apartment renting service than bedroom sharing, most places in NY are 100$+ per night. More like the hipsters' version of couchsurfing, where you pay top buck to have a personalized 'cool' experience instead of simply crashing with some dudes for free.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mwvdlee (775178)

      Trust relies on people being trustworthy. If people as a whole were trustworthy, corporations wouldn't exist.
      It's the same reason why communes work only on a very small scale.
      At some scale, diverging views of "fairnes" set in and people will stop cooperating without reserve.

      • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @06:43AM (#44341113)

        The emergence of the corporation had virtually nothing to do with the trustworthiness of people. Your understanding of both the utility of the corporation and of human nature is fundamentally flawed.

        • As noted by Ancient Commenter Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2 [blueletterbible.org]:

          16. Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
          17. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

        • Yes it was

          A lot of the small businesses at the time were scam artists and had crappy products. Corporations made a somewhat better product with consistent quality

          • But that's not why corporations came about. Individuals could certainly produce better product with consistent quality if they chose to.

            Corporations are about:
            -pooling a lot of capital together to do something
            -minimize personal liability for doing it

          • by sjames (1099)

            Then they invented 'value engineering'; and that went straight to hell.

          • by mspohr (589790)

            The purpose of the corporation is to attract capital (stock) to increase the size of the business.
            It also limits the liability of the owners (stockholders).
            Neither of these things would lead to better quality. In fact, both could lead to poor quality (increased production and lack of accountability).

          • by kermidge (2221646)

            To which time are you referring?

            Even the short article at Wikipedia on corporations can place the birth of corporations anywhere from the 6th century onward over the next thousand years. (I'd been taught that, in roughly the form we know them, they started in 16th-century Venice, but that's another story.)

            In my experience, and from reading, small businesses tend to be more sensitive to local feedback; generally, if they defraud their customers they don't last long. I reason that a small company is formed

        • No, his understanding of human nature is spot on. People are inherently selfish creatures at the sub-concious level. Unless you re-write the human genome, we will always be selfish bastards! More so at the collective unconscious level than the individual. BTW; capitalism is both the understanding and acceptance of this view, and, based on the idea of harnessing this natural behavior for the betterment of mankind at the conscious level.

          • You statements regarding human nature are reasonably accurate, but your (and the GP's) understanding of how this relates to corporations as separate constructs is still sorely lacking.

          • by spiralx (97066)

            Your understanding of human nature is at least fifty years behind current research, but does serve to justify your beliefs.

      • by bitt3n (941736) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @12:19PM (#44342785)

        It's the same reason why communes work only on a very small scale.

        This is something people misunderstand about Stalin. He's often portrayed as a murderous megalomaniac, but in reality he was just trying to keep the population small enough for communism to function properly.

        It's kind of like when you shoot deer out of a helicopter for the good of the ecosystem.

        • Man, where is the YouTube video of this!

          Is it some kind of springboard contraption that launches the deer, or a large tube that they stuff the deer into [like a carnival's human cannonball] to shoot it out of a helicopter?

          There has to be some law against doing this.

    • Nope. Not gonna last. How do you tax kindness? If I let my hairdresser use my car for her groceries in exchange for a haircut, no money changes hands and no taxes are paid.

      That's not gonna last long.

      • by ozydingo (922211)
        Wouldn't it be nice if we made our administrative system work around daily life, rather than the other way around?
      • by gedw99 (1597337)

        bit coin is the same too. Te government has yet to shut it down. The banks are starting to try by disallowing exchanges of bit coin to real money n the exchanges. But in france a large bank has issues a visa cad that is linked to your bit coin account. So its hard to say which way it will all go.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cenan (1892902)

        The state has no use for money if you think about it a bit longer. The reason the state has to take money as payment for tax, is to pay wages to other people performing work for the state. You could cut out the money middleman and take labor as payment directly.

        Instead of paying a set percentage of your wages as tax, you could be required to clock a certain amount of hours in your field of expertise for the community. Of course, that would mean that the rich fat cats get off their arse and work (since fleec

        • by lxs (131946)

          Instead of paying a set percentage of your wages as tax, you could be required to clock a certain amount of hours in your field of expertise for the community.

          Yeah. That's going to get roads built and maintained. This money thing may seem evil if you don't have a lot of it, but there is a reason that it has lasted for millennia. It's a damn good system compared to a barter economy, and paying taxes beats feudal serfdom any day of the week. But hey, some modern humans like living in the past to the point of [wikipedia.org]

      • Nope. Not gonna last. How do you tax kindness? If I let my hairdresser use my car for her groceries in exchange for a haircut, no money changes hands and no taxes are paid.

        That's not gonna last long.

        There's a word for when two parties exchange goods or services without money changing hands. The word is "barter".

        There's also a tax form for it.

        • by kenaaker (774785)
          If you want a "killer app", figure out how to make an online barter market that can do barter chains. If that's the right term; #1 wants this, and has that, #2 has the other thing and wants the other other thing, #3 has that.... Stitch all the wants and haves together and everybody gets what they want with no currency being exchanged at all. Currency is just a common denominator and has no intrinsic value.
        • Well, government has considered it unwieldy for a time now to manipulate, handle and store chickens and sows. Numbers on accounts are a lot handier.

          • by sFurbo (1361249)
            What have that got to do with taxing barter? They will tax you in money, the amount being based on an estimation of the value of the bartered items (at least, that is how my country does it).
            • Interesting, there's actually a tax on "modern day" barter trade in your country? How do they know that you bartered? I mean, there isn't really any kind of paper trail going with it, is there?

              • by sFurbo (1361249)
                I don't think it is very widespread, it is mostly mentioned when people get bright ideas about helping each other with keeping gardens, and renovating houses. It would be hard to prove, especially given that gifts are not taxed (up to a certain amount), so they must prove that there was a deal.
    • by alen (225700)

      more like when these kids grow up they will go back to big business

      if i'm taking my family on vacation to florida i might as well stay in a hotel. airbnb means i need to rent a car, pay parking, risk a hotel room if my flight is late and the owner can't make it at a later time to give me the keys, etc. you're not really saving much money

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      sounds neat, but I wonder if its gonna last...
      corporations will finnd a way to get rid of them, or the system will itself sink in a swamp of administration

      I think it will only take one well publicized case of a psychopath using the service to find his victims (either as a provider or user of the service), and it'll die a quick death. The existing corporations will find a way to make sure it stays in the news for as long as possible.

  • Garden sharing is another great thing. I wish something like this existed here. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/sep/02/garden-sharing-growing-vegetables [guardian.co.uk]. And here is a TEDx talk about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya6zndBObHY [youtube.com]
    • by Seumas (6865)

      I really wish more of this stuff (like Task Rabbit and Uber) would come to Denver. Since I've moved out here, I've missed the closeness of everything that you have in the Bay Area and the fantastic public transit of Portland. My hours are inverse of the normal human being, which means there are a ton of things that I couldn't do even if I wanted to. For example, my neighbors wouldn't be too happy if I mowed my lawn at 2:00am on a Saturday morning and it is hard to get groceries at 3:30AM on a Sunday morning

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:28AM (#44340895)

    The Locust Economy [ribbonfarm.com]

    • Hey, why should only hedgefonds get all the fun of ruining the hard working businessman?

    • by HuguesT (84078)

      Poorly constructed, but very insightful article. Thanks for the link!

    • by JanneM (7445) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @07:28AM (#44341223) Homepage

      So... I'm very far from what you'd call an unrepentent capitalist (by US standards I probably count as communist-light). But the thrust of his argument seems to be (correct me if I get it wrong):

      * Consumers are much better informed and able to find the best combination of price and value than before;

      * That hurts providers that are neither able to offer lower prices or better value. Or, in other words, those providers that previously managed to stay afloat only because their customers were poorly informed.

      And from a consumer point of view, I have a hard time seeing what is immoral about that.

      If I today have the choice of a chain coffee house with so-so cofee but good prices and generous laptop policies on one hand, and a gourmet shop run by an enthusiast with fifteen kinds of blow-your-mind taste sensation coffees on the other; why would I go to the old coffee shop in between where neither the coffee, service or price is anything special?

      • That's where marketing comes into play. If you're offering a product/service that's mid-range (medium quality, medium price, medium value), it's more important to make your offerings stand out from the crowd. Some would point out that this product is the worst of both worlds. Marketing is there to not lie, but provide a convincing POV a why it's the best of both worlds for the value.

        Don't discount the mid-range market. It's alive and kicking for a reason. People value it.

  • Uh, this would be interesting if they'd linked to an article on the sharing economy, instead we were linked to a single page advertisement in the form of a NYTimes article.
     
    Anyone care to link to a real article with a little more breadth?

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:33AM (#44340909)
    And with all these people offering professional services, how many have qualifications or insurance? Say you use someone who offers lifts (to the airport, as an example). What happens if they have a collision - their insurance won't cover them for commercial use (terms and conditions may be different in your country, where ever that is). What happens if the person who's committed to cooking for your guests gives them all food poisoning?

    Trust is nice, and touchy-feely and new-world 'n' all. Though indemnity is better - but it costs.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you read TFA (I know, I know) you'd see that insurance is included in the Airbnb service.

    • by Coward Anonymous (110649) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @06:25AM (#44341053)

      At some point you have to stop living in fear.
      Stuff can go wrong - that's life. The correct thing to do is to go on with life, not find someone to blame so you can sue them. Somewhere this simple concept has been lost on a great too many.

      • What a preposterous idea you have there. How will all the business insurance companies and lawyers make their living if we just go on dealing with losses that we can easily overcome?
        • So if you are in a car with a lyft driver who blows through a stop sign, crashes and you get hurt requiring weeks in the hospital and lots of money lost from not being able to work its ok?

          What if you have lasting health issues? It's ok dude, don't do it again

      • by Anonymous Coward

        At some point you have to stop living in fear.

        Fear is not the problem. Sociopaths gaming the system are the problem. Without indemnities for bad behavior there are perverse incentives.

        Stuff can go wrong - that's life.

        True.

        The correct thing to do is to go on with life, not find someone to blame so you can sue them. Somewhere this simple concept has been lost on a great too many.

        No, wearing an injury means that somebody benefits - they have an incentive to do it again and again. Something like this can

      • by JThundley (631154)

        You're right, we should close down every prison and free everyone. After all, murderers aren't to blame for killing people. Just go on with your life.

    • by The Cat (19816) *

      We must have a risk-free society. We simply cannot survive any other way.

      You must always be suspicious of your neighbors. Because they might be up to something. /s

    • In our current system, we are placing trust in a system of profession. In the 'sharing economy', trust is placed in the individual. If you don't feel like being social (you're an introvert for example), than the sharing economy concept is not for you.

  • by dnaumov (453672)

    the idea is dead on arrival in my country (Finland) due to the amount of paperwork one would be legally obliged to do and the fact that "obviously" you need to pay taxes on all of this.

    • by jemmyw (624065)

      Maybe it'll encourage governments to develop saner tax rules.

      I encountered something similar with Timebank in NZ - I cannot give my time if I'd be doing anything related to my job. You can see the point of view of the taxman here (it'd be equivalent to cash in hand), but it is insane.

      • by petes_PoV (912422)

        Maybe it'll encourage governments to develop saner tax rules

        The tax rules are quite sane: you get income, you pay tax. Also most countries have rules & regs about letting out property that are designed to protect the renter. Such as requiring basic safety checks on appliances, making sure there are adequate escape routes in case of fire.

        • The tax rules are quite sane: you get income, you pay tax.

          When you get to the specifics, tax law (at least in the U.S.) is insane. The average citizen cannot fully understand all of the laws (deductions and exemptions) that apply to them. It's a standard story during April (tax filing season here) for a reporter to take their paperwork to a bunch of different tax preparation specialists and point out the wildly different results and interpretations.

          And tax laws for businesses are so full of loopholes and

    • by JanneM (7445)

      Well, given that you have an income tax in the first place, why would you not pay income on something that is, well, income?

  • by BlindRobin (768267) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:44AM (#44340949)

    Someone actually reads Thomas Friedman as not satire? I thought the NYT just put him in for comic relief.

    • Friedman is the reason I stopped reading the NYT. His articles improve if you add the words "It seems like..." to the beginnig of every sentence, and the words "but if you think about it for 5 seconds, you'll realize that things are much more complicated than that" to the end of every sentence. For example: "It seems like ordinary people can now be micro-entrepreneurs, but if you think about it for 5 seconds, you'll realize that things are much more complicated than that."

      • by doom (14564)

        coldsalmon wrote:

        Friedman is the reason I stopped reading the NYT. His articles improve if you add the words "It seems like..." to the beginnig of every sentence, and the words "but if you think about it for 5 seconds, you'll realize that things are much more complicated than that" to the end of every sentence. For example: "It seems like ordinary people can now be micro-entrepreneurs, but if you think about it for 5 seconds, you'll realize that things are much more complicated than that."

        That sounds

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Proof that no matter how wrong you are about basically everything, no one will ever call you out if you stay on message.
    Honestly, this guy is a complete fucking idiot, and a kept man married to an exceedingly wealthy wife. He has a history of idiotic pronouncements and bizarre triumphalist declarations that only resonate with those with no connection to reality.

  • by Gravis Zero (934156) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:55AM (#44340995)

    early on, we teach children to share. sharing does not mean, "yeah, you can have the ball but it's going to cost you" which is _exactly_ what this is. this is renting. it's even been made this into a business and they call these "sharing" places, hotels and motels.

    sharing is communism. your children are communists.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      When its voluntary and mutually beneficial, its free enterprise.
      When its voluntary but not mutually beneficial, its (idealized) communism.

      When its involuntary, regardless of how many benefit, its slavery.
      • And when it's involuntary and only beneficial to a select few it's ... what do we call our system today? I know it ain't capitalism anymore.

        • And when it's involuntary and only beneficial to a select few it's ... what do we call our system today? I know it ain't capitalism anymore.

          Aristocracy

          • Plutocracy [wikipedia.org] seems more apt. But since it's becoming more and more impossible to break the barriers between rich and poor and being rich is more and more dependent on whether you're born in the "right" family, the actual difference is minimal.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Crony Capitalism, a bastardized form of capitalism that's not really recognizable as a form of capitalism which the US has today. It more and more favors the oligarchy, who in the US are individuals at the highest levels of government, large corporations, and banks. They'd prefer to maintain their power, and forever shearing the sheep for all they're worth.

          • Personally, I'd say it's a Plutocracy with less and less inhibitions to drop the pretense that it's not a Kleptocracy.

        • And when it's involuntary and only beneficial to a select few it's ... what do we call our system today? I know it ain't capitalism anymore.

          Nope, that;s capitalism all right. Benefits in a capitalist system accrue to the minority who own the capital.

          • by Rockoon (1252108)

            Nope, that;s capitalism all right. Benefits in a capitalist system accrue to the minority who own the capital.

            You are incorrect sir. The benefits accrue to everyone involved. You are misinterpreting growing capital base as a benefit. Benefits are goods and services, not currency.

            A simple example is the washing machine.

            216 years ago (1797) the common person had to wash their own clothes using a device called a washboard, and it literally took hours of hard manual labor to get clothing clean. At that same time, people with large amounts of capital did not have to wash their own clothes, instead they paid others

    • What a stupid non-sequitur. Children have never studied Marx.

      It's not communism unless it's enforced at gunpoint.

  • by lorinc (2470890) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @06:26AM (#44341057) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this like unreported employment, where workers have no rights and the state gets nothing (for maintaining the infrastructures used). I know /. is US-centric and my little European country seems communist to most of you (I'm from France). But seriously unreported employment is a bad idea, although it might look better than unenployment. Firstly, it's a downhill to slavery, like the world was before the introduction of labour laws. And secondly, it's not sharing at all because there is no collectivity in such shemes. It's everyone is on its own without any place for a collective structure, which is obviously not the way humankind has eveloved for the last couple of thousands of years.

    These deregulated systems are utopias that only work if people are equally smart and potent, which will definitely never be the case.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would hardly describe the system as "employment". That's like saying I'm employed by Ebay because I occasionally use it to sell things I don't need.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I can't speak for the US but at least here in Norway the distinction between personal activity (that doesn't have to pay taxes) and commercial activity comes down to scope and profitability, not organization. Everything from professional poker players to product pushing bloggers and prostitutes have had their activity deemed taxable with demands of back payment and penalty taxes. If you rent out your house once a year while you're away on summer vacation it'll fail the scope requirement, if you're just tryi

      • It sometimes happens, in France too, that someone runs a "micro-business" (i.e. no employee, there's only the business owner) and ends up depending on a single, big, crucial "client".. working on the client's premises, etc.
        Needless to say, the "independant", "self owned business" guy is fucked. You end up with all the duties of an employee and none of the rights.

        The "self employed" guy simply has no bargaining power whatsoever, if he's just getting by and struggling to support himself, or herself.
        Of course

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Please stop using this stupid buzz word/phrase "Sharing Economy" because it is NOT sharing.

    Sharing is when you give something to someone else for free.

    This concept, or people leasing/renting short terms places in their house for money is simply that: ad-hoc amateur renting.

  • Most rental contracts I've seen specifically prevent you from sub-letting your apartment. Minor detail.
    • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @07:03AM (#44341161)
      If you own the property, it's usually not illegal. Mind you, a lot of cities are now in process or have already banned airbnb and similar services. They don't want residential areas become tourist infested, or they want to be able to tax the hell out of people making money with their properties.
      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Agreed if it's your property you can usually do what you want. Provided you're within the by-laws. And sometimes in condominiums the home-owner's association places a cap on how many units can be rented. I'm not sure how that would translate to sub-letting rooms. More work for the lawyers I guess. I'm really in the wrong business.
  • Ok (Score:1, Interesting)

    by The Cat (19816) *

    It's a whole generation of people with no fucking job living in the same room.

    The reason is because our government is forcing us to compete with manipulated currencies and our "employers" are lying cunts.

  • We had something like this in the 1800's and earlier

    Corporations won because they offer a consistent experience. I rent a home on airbnb in Orlando I have no idea what I'll get. I've read of horror stories of people renting out their homes to multiple guests at once. With Disney resorts I know what I get.

    Ride sharing is too expensive unless done very rarely. Might as well buy a car.

    The brands and corporations won almost 100 years ago because they give people a consistent experience and are somewhat helpful

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @07:07AM (#44341181)
    A lot of these kind of services are successful because people tend to stay under the radar of tax collecting agencies. Once the gubbament starts figuring out how to tax all this, most of these sort of initiatives die because it's no longer economically viable to a lot of the people offering services. The side effect is that often, because people have to make it their official business, they will need to get mandatory permits, licenses, diploma's and insurance as well. These and taxing often kill informal "small businesses" and kill the economy. We need a side economy, or a "liberal enough" legislation to allow initiatives like these to foster. Unfortunately, with the current fear and economic crisis, it's going to be hard to keep that from happening.
    • by Mr. White (22990)

      That's not necessarily true. A lot of these services are successful because they can charge less and still profit because they don't have the overhead of a full time business. Renting a room or two in your house carries no downside potential. If the rooms stay empty all month, it's no different from before you signed up on AirBNB. In contrast, a hotel has substantial salary costs to cover each month. If they stay empty a whole month, they're in debt and have to make that up next month somehow.

  • Spam, harassing phone calls to sell their services. Yep, great non-corporate service. Please.
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @07:55AM (#44341289) Homepage Journal
    Come on Friedmann, key parties aren't new, they've been around since the 70s!
    • by doom (14564)

      Come on Friedmann, key parties aren't new, they've been around since the 70s!

      Do you have a cite on that? I've always thought they've got to be urban legends. I can't figure out how the system would make any sense. Tossing slips of paper into a jar would work, but keys?

      KEYPART [obsidianrook.com]

  • " "It used to be that corporations and brands had all the trust," added [CEO Brian Chesky], but now a total stranger, "can be trusted like a company and provide the services of a company."
    --
    And the government too, d'uh!

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:44AM (#44342535)

    and they change taxi like rates any ways.

    insurance / liability is a big one do you want be in an accident be in your car, in an lyft car, a pedestrian, and so one. So while you are in the hospital with billes racking up as the all of insurances are fighting over who has liability?

    Some of the same stuff can come up with pizza drivers who auto insurance likely does not cover pizza delivery and you can be in a place where the drivers insurance says we don't cover that and your own insurance says why should we pay when you are not at fault.

  • The hotel industry exudes waste. Rooms constructed for the sole purpose of hosting strangers, suffer from 66% occupancy rates, despite huge capital investment. Fully one-third of hotel rooms lie fallow, incapable of monetization. Marriott’s tens of thousands of individual shareholders, often capable of hosting guests themselves, lack the necessary infrastructure. Platforms like Airbnb provide that infrastructure. Shareholders can now rent direct and avoid corporate waste, both capital and operating.
  • If there is no contract, then there is no warranty of any sort nor any guarantee that the work done will conform to what was desired. Which means that you'd have to be extremely naive to use this sort of service as you could end up in serious trouble.
    If there is a contract, then there is nothing special about this. It's just regular work.

  • Putting your apartment on AirBnB can net you a $40,000 fine. Say "thank you" to the hotel companies.

  • The military is hoping on board this trend, and relatives of generals are building their own trebuchets.

  • I loved it for Zagreb. Had the best flat & owners I'd ever met. Guy even got me a prepaid phone to use while I over there so I could txt/call friends and buy tram tickets. Was super clean, had washer and balcony with rack for drying. Very near to Upper City and main train station. 6 nights for 400 bucks for whole apartment. Will go back, will stay at same place.

    London was ok, but far cheaper than hotel. And by far cheaper, I mean *FAR FAR* cheaper.

    Anyways, if you do your homework, airbnb isn't a

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