CouchSurfing


CouchSurfing
CouchSurfing
CouchSurfing logo.png
Founder(s) Casey Fenton
Dan Hoffer
Sebastien Le Tuan
Leonardo Bassani da Silveira[1]
Type C-Corporation
Founded 2003
Location San Francisco, CA, United States
Key people Dan Hoffer (CEO)
Area served Global
Focus Hospitality exchange, international understanding, networking
Method Hospitality service
Website www.couchsurfing.org

CouchSurfing International Inc. is a corporation based in San Francisco that offer its users hospitality exchange and social networking services. It is a for-profit private corporation[2][3][4], planning to go public.[5] With more than 3 million profiles in 246 countries and territories, CouchSurfing has an Alexa Traffic Rank of about 1,700. It recently suffered significant criticism from thousands of users after becoming a for-profit corporation when it had been a non-profit for years.[6][7]

Contents

Etymology

Couchsurfing is a neologism referring to the practice of moving from one friend's house to another, sleeping in whatever spare space is available, floor or couch, generally staying a few days before moving on to the next house.

Membership

Free to register, members have the option of providing information and pictures of themselves and of the sleeping accommodation they offer, if any. More information provided by a member, and other members, improves the chances that someone will find the member trustworthy enough to be his host or guest. Security is often measured in the reference established by networking. Volunteers may verify names and addresses. Members looking for accommodation can search for hosts using several parameters such as age, location, gender and activity level.

Homestays are consensual between the host and guest, and the duration, nature, and terms of the guest's stay are generally worked out in advance. No monetary exchange takes place except for compensation of incurred expenses (e.g. food).

CouchSurfing provides editable travel guides and forums where members may seek travel partners or advice. CouchSurfing's main focus is "social networking" and members organize activities such as camping trips, bar crawls, meetings, and sporting events.

The website features a searchable database of hundreds of upcoming events organised by CouchSurfing members, including the annual "Berlin Beach Camp" which draws over 1,000 attendees, the annual "WinterCamp," and a New Year's Eve party hosted in a different city in Europe every year. Famous Couchsurfers include Julian Assange and Daniel Bedingfield.

Security verification

There are three methods designed to increase security and trust, which are all visible on member profiles for potential hosts and surfers:

  1. Personal references, which hosts and surfers have the option to leave after having used the service.[8]
  2. An optional credit card verification system, allowing members to "lock in" their name and address by making a credit card payment and entering a code that CouchSurfing mails to an address of their choice. This also allows CouchSurfing to recoup some costs by requiring a fee for verification. For fairness, the verification fee is based on a sliding scale, taking into account the Purchasing Power Parity and Human Development Index of the country of residence.
  3. A personal vouching system, whereby a member that had been vouched for three times — originally starting with the founders of the site — might in turn vouch for any number of other members he knew or had met through CouchSurfing, and trusts.

Ambassadors

Members who wished to volunteer for various tasks on the site and help spread the word about CouchSurfing in general were able to become ambassadors. Ambassadors must be role-models and actively promote the CouchSurfing spirit among members and to the public. In addition to promoting use of the site, they greet new members, help with questions and perform other administrative tasks, all on a volunteer basis.

Demographics

Cities with over 4,000 registered CouchSurfers as of 3 January 2011
Countries with over 500 registered CouchSurfers as of 3 January 2011

As of August 2011, there were over 3 million registered users at CouchSurfing.[9]

As of January 2011, couchsurfers represents more than 80,000 unique towns in 245 states and territories. Around 20% of the couchsurfers had registered their country as being the United States, with Germany, France, Canada and England also registering large numbers of participants. The city with the largest number of resident couchsurfers was Paris.[9]

English was spoken by nearly 74% of registered Couchsurfers. French (20%), Spanish (17%) and German (16%) were also spoken.[9]

The average age of participants was 28 years of age.[9]

History

Casey Fenton

The CouchSurfing project was conceived by Casey Fenton in 1999.[1] According to Fenton's account, the idea arose after finding an inexpensive flight from Boston to Iceland. Fenton randomly e-mailed 1,500 students from the University of Iceland asking if he could stay. He ultimately received more than 50 offers of accommodation. On the return flight to Boston, he began to develop the ideas that would underpin the CouchSurfing project.

Fenton developed the code intermittently over the next few years.[1] The site was launched with the cooperation of Dan Hoffer, Sebastien Le Tuan, and Leonardo Silveira[1] as a beta in January 2003, although none of these except Fenton was a member of the original board of directors. The project became a public website in January 2004.

Initial growth of the site was slow. By the end of 2004 the site had just over 6,000 members. In 2005, growth accelerated and by the end of the year, membership stood at just under 45,000.[9] As of October 2011, CouchSurfing has over 3 million active and inactive members and is the most popular free accommodation site.[10] As of October 2011, the site has an Alexa Global Traffic Rank of 1,729.[11]

On 1 September 2011 Daniel Hoffer was announced as the new President and Chief Executive Officer of CouchSurfing.[12] Dan was one of the original founders of the website and will be in charge of daily operations. Casey Fenton remains Chairman of the Board of Directors. He was self-appointed chairman of the board for life of the dissolved nonprofit CouchSurfing.

2006 database loss and relaunch

In June 2006, the project experienced a number of computer problems resulting in much of the database being irrevocably lost.[13] Due to the volume of critical data that had been lost, Casey Fenton was of the opinion that the project could not be resurrected. On 29 June 2006, he sent an e-mail to all members: "It is with a heavy heart that I face the truth of this situation. CouchSurfing as we knew it doesn't exist anymore."[14]

Fenton's e-mail was met with vocal opposition to the termination of the project and considerable support for its recreation. A CouchSurfing Collective was underway in Montreal at the time and those in attendance committed to fully recreating the original site, with users to re-enter their profile data. "CouchSurfing 2.0" was announced early in July 2006, with the intent to be operational within 10 days. The initial implementation of CouchSurfing 2.0 actually launched after only four days with the current CouchSurfing slogan "Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time". Since the site relaunch, the project has received international media coverage.

2009 Leeds Incident

On 5 March 2009 in Leeds, UK, a man named Abdelali Nachet raped a woman from Hong Kong who stayed at his place through the CouchSurfing project.[15] Nachet was sentenced to 10 years in prison.[16]

2011 incorporation

CouchSurfing International Inc. used to be a non-profit corporation incorporated in the U.S. state of New Hampshire.[17][18] In November 2007, they applied for the federal 501(c)(3) non-profit status, but that was never granted, what according to Casey Fenton, led him to seek "other options"[19]

In August 2011, CouchSurfing announced that its certification as a for-profit B corporation.[20] A $7.6 million million dollar investment was raised by Benchmark Capital.[21] The site had previously been financially operated using revenue from the voluntary identity verification service.

The announcement that CouchSurfing had become a for-profit corporation created a backlash from core members and volunteers with the organisation. A protest group within CouchSurfing of more than 1,400 members was formed entitled "We are against CS becoming a corporation." as a response.[22][23] The protesters see CouchSurfing's source code and user database as community created and say that they should not be used for profits.[23]

In an interview with El País CEO Dan Hoffer stated that there's a plan to let the company grow much bigger and the final objective is to go public.[5]

CouchSurfing Cultural Exchange Fund

In August 2011 CouchSurfing announced the CouchSurfing Cultural Exchange Fund which is administered by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF).[24] The fund will award grants ranging between $30,000 and $50,000 annually to nonprofits and schools with compatible missions. The goal is to foster appreciation and understanding between different cultures — with an emphasis on youth and young adults — through such means as international travel, international cultural exchange programs, and classroom-based information exchange.[25] The Cultural Exchange Fund has no connection to CouchSurfing International, Inc.

Organization

Mission

The mission statement of CouchSurfing is:

At CouchSurfing International, we envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to diversity with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community.[26]

CouchSurfing Collectives

Since June 2006, development of the website has been run in large part by CouchSurfing Collectives: events which may last days or weeks, bringing groups of CouchSurfers together in a chosen city, to develop and improve CouchSurfing. Previous Collectives took place in Montreal, Vienna, New Zealand, Rotterdam, Thailand, Alaska, Costa Rica and Istanbul.[27]

See also

Other hospitality exchange networks

Related concepts

  • DaruDar - gift-giving community of things and skills
  • Postcrossing - gift-giving community of postcards
  • BookCrossing - gift-giving community of books
  • The Freecycle Network - gift-giving community
  • HomeAway - vacation rentals
  • Airbnb - alternative short-term rentals, user-driven

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Founders & Board of Directors". CouchSurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/our_people/Founders. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  2. ^ http://www.bcorporation.net/index.cfm/fuseaction/company.report/ID/5e086197-f44e-4448-9519-5e35d5bde1e2
  3. ^ http://www.triplepundit.com/2011/09/couchsurfing-corporation-bona-fide-bogus/
  4. ^ http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=45507&post=10156303
  5. ^ a b "El jefe de CouchSurfing asegura que su objetivo es salir a Bolsa". El País. 13 September 2011. http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Pantallas/jefe/CouchSurfing/asegura/objetivo/salir/Bolsa/elpepirtv/20110913elpepirtv_2/Tes. 
  6. ^ "After going for-profit, CouchSurfing faces user revolt". GigaOm. 1 September 2011. http://gigaom.com/2011/09/01/after-going-for-profit-couchsurfing-faces-user-revolt/. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "We are against CS becoming a for-profit corporation". http://www.couchsurfing.org/group.html?gid=45507. Retrieved 17 Novemver 2011. 
  8. ^ "One Couch at a Time". CouchSurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/mission_stats.html. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Statistics". CouchSurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/statistics.html. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  10. ^ Baker, Vicky (22 January 2011). "How to stay with a local". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/jan/22/budget-travel-stay-with-locals. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Couchsurfing.org Site Info". Alexa Internet. http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/couchsurfing.org. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "CouchSurfing's New President and CEO". Casey's CouchSurfing Blog. 1 September 2011. http://blog.couchsurfing.org/casey/. 
  13. ^ Fenton, Casey (28 June 2006). "Help! - Innodb and MyISAM accidental DROP DATABASE - 112 tables gone forever?". forums.mysql.com. http://forums.mysql.com/read.php?28,99328,99328#msg-99328. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  14. ^ Fenton, Casey. "The Perfect Storm". CouchSurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/first_mail.htm. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  15. ^ "Man accused of raping woman he met on couchsurfing.com website". The Daily Telegraph. 11 August 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/6013980/Man-accused-of-raping-woman-he-met-on-couchsurfing.com-website.html. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  16. ^ "Leeds couchsurfing.com rapist jailed". Yorkshire Evening Post. 29 October 2009. http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/Leeds-man-jailed-for-rape.5776832.jp. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  17. ^ "Business Entity". New Hampshire Department of State. 25 August 2011. https://www.sos.nh.gov/corporate/soskb/Corp.asp?473515. 
  18. ^ "Terms of Use". CouchSurfing. 13 July 2011. http://www.couchsurfing.org/terms.html. 
  19. ^ "Couchsurfing brainstorm group thread". Couch Surging. 16 April 2011. http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=7621&post=8603025. 
  20. ^ "Non-Profit CouchSurfing Raises Millions In Funding". Forbes. 24 August 2011. http://www.forbes.com/sites/nicoleperlroth/2011/08/24/non-profit-couchsurfing-raises-millions-in-funding/. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "Benchmark plops down $7.6M to make CouchSurfing into a for-profit". VentureBeat. 24 August 2011. http://venturebeat.com/2011/08/24/benchmark-couchsurfing/. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "After going for-profit, CouchSurfing faces user revolt". gigaom. 1 September 2011. http://gigaom.com/2011/09/01/after-going-for-profit-couchsurfing-faces-user-revolt/. 
  23. ^ a b "Users Revolt After Hippie Couchsurfing Site Goes Corporate Users Revolt After Hippie Couchsurfing Site Goes Corporate". Gawker. 2 September 2011. http://gawker.com/5836946/users-revolt-after-hippie-couchsurfing-site-goes-corporate. 
  24. ^ "CouchSurfing Scholars". CouchSurfing. 29 August 2011. http://www.couchsurfing.org/news/article/146. 
  25. ^ http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/10/prweb8848659.htm
  26. ^ "Mission". CouchSurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/about.html/mission. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  27. ^ "CouchSurfing Collectives". CouchSurfing. http://www.couchsurfing.org/collective.html. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 

External links


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