Almost in the same period in which Mark Zuckerberg laid the foundations of what was to become the most popular social media platform, another group of students was developing a bold concept called Couch Surfing, which is now the biggest community of guest and hosts from all around the world. At a first sight the idea that gave birth to this revolutionary project might sound crazy – “people anywhere would want to share their homes with strangers”, but at a closer look the strangers may turn into as the founders like to call them “friends you haven’t met yet”.
Let see what it is really about – Couchsurfing.com is basically a social media platform where people add friends, build profiles or send messages all for free, but for more credibility users can pay a fee to be verified. Besides this, the experience that the project aims to offer is not limited to having a place to stay, but also to get to know a new culture, to have a local as a tour guide and to make friends all around the world, benefits that applies also to a host (which you have to become at one point).
The first question that comes into our minds when we hear about Couch Surfing is ‘Isn’t it dangerous?’. Well it is not the safest, but is probably the cheapest and considering safety measures that the platform provides it might be suitable for an open minded traveler. On the website you can choose the type of host and find out more about them from their public profiles and from the ratings and comments from other guests. The value that stands at the foundation of this concept is the trust in friendship and as Lauterbach, et al.(2009) claim the safety in CouchSurfing is based on the high degree of interaction and reciprocity among participants, which is enabled by a reputation system that allows individuals to vouch for one another.
At this moment the Couch Surfing community gathers more than 7 million people from more than 100,000 cities. Local communities of hosts regularly organize events to keep in touch with each other and also to share their experience with the new joiners. These groups are usually managed by volunteers known as ambassadors, who guide couchsurfing’s members after the values of the project.
If you want to find out more about the experience of couch Surfing you can check their YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/thisiscouchsurfing) or their official blog (http://couchsurfing.tumblr.com/) for more information about how it works and other stories from both surfers and hosts.
Lauterbach, et al., 2009. Surfing a Web of Trust: Reputation and Reciprocity on CouchSurfing.com. Computational Science and Engineering, [e-journal] 4, pp 346 – 353. Abstract only. Available through: Google Academic <http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?tp=&arnumber=5284060&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fxpls%2Fabs_all.jsp%3Farnumber%3D5284060> [Accessed 9 April 2014].