The status quo is being replaced by a movement. Peer-to-peer is going to become the default way people exchange things, whether it is space, stuff, skills, or services.
As best we can tell, the politics of the venture capital elite boils down to fending off higher taxes, keeping labor costs low and reducing the ‘burden’ of government regulation. … Silicon Valley could start by putting a stop to pretending that the sharing economy is about anything other than making a killing.
If you’ve heard about companies like Airbnb, Zipcar, Skype, Uber, Getaround, and Lyft, and you know a bit about crypto-currencies, you get the picture.
The “sharing economy” is just as exhilarating and vexing as the Web 2.0 meme was nine years ago.
I am all there with Arun Sundararajan, professor at Stern School of Business at NYU who describes walking down the street in New York City, musing on all the parked cars that remain unused ninety two percent of the time. He gets it right; it seems awfully inefficient, even wasteful. Why couldn’t he just pick up one of those vehicles, run an errand, return the car to that same spot thirty minutes later, clip a twenty dollar bill under the sunshade, and be done.
Right, but then he claims that such emerging marketplaces can perfectly self-regulate and should be left to their own devices (Sundararajan). Sharon Ciarella, Vice President of Amazon Mechanical Turk made a similar argument (Pratt); Mechanical Turk workers would just vote with their feet– they could not be tricked into performing exploitative work. All good here; no intervention needed.
Not so fast. It is surprising that crowdbilking practices on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk still have not raised red flags in the offices of regulators. Based on these examples, it should be clear how sorely regulation is needed. I agree with Evgeny Morozov who pointed out that the so-called “sharing economy” is nothing but the logical continuation of crowdsourcing. And Uber is not free from those dynamics. There is a reason that taxi fares are regulated; it prevents abuse.
But it is also all so electrifying. Uber is valued at 10 billion dollars and Airbnb, a company founded in 2008, is valued higher than the Hyatt hotel chain. Airbnb offers as many rooms as Intercontinental, which has 4600 hotels with 120,000 employees in over 100 countries. It took Intercontinental sixty years to build this business empire. Hyatt and Intercontinental had to hire architects, build up an enormous infrastructure. And then here comes Airbnb, which offers an impressive 500,000 listings in 33,000 cities in more than 192 countries. So far, Airbnb hosted 8,5 million guests without ever turning a brick (Yeung). All they got is an app; it’s a logistics company.
Are we looking at a secret plot, a covert p2p takeover? Companies in the “sharing ecomomy” can only function because they are using your “assets,” YOUR resources: your car (Bla Bla Car, Getaride), your apartment (Airbnb), and your computing power (e.g., Skype).