Airbnb and the sharing economy

| May 28, 2019

Airbnb Background

From its inception, Airbnb was referred to as bed and breakfast owing to the fact that the founder played host to guests on air mattresses within their apartments. The founders were able to do this particularly when nearly all rooms in San Francisco hotels had been fully booked especially when there was an incoming popular conference. The founders managed to sell four spots within their apartments, offered their guests breakfasts (Oskam, et al., 2016).  They at the same time took it upon themselves to show their guests the local neighborhood. Their idea began gathering momentum in the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. During this time, they had developed what can be termed as a basic online platform which enabled people to rent out space rooms to convention attendees. As such, the early achievement was very instrumental since it came in handy in helping them to secure a place especially in the world-renowned startup accelerator, Y combinatory.

It is relatively hard to believe now, but the fact remains that Airbnb at some point during their initial stages of operation, struggled mainly in gaining attraction. The struggle went on for some time until that opportune time when the founders flew to New York in a move that aimed at meeting a number of their first hosts (Oskam & Boswijk, 2016). The experience which came after meeting their host taught them a number of lessons in relation to making a good listing. Arguably, one of their most crucial finding specifically from their New York trip was that good and remarkable photographs are extremely important. This, however, remains an instrumental component of a good listing today.

Ethical concerns  

It is important to note that when you are on vacation, the very last thing you can probably want to worry about is whether or not the apartment or house you are renting or staying in is recording you. Sadly though, this is precisely what a substantial number of guests on Airbnb have experienced in the recent past (O’Regan, et al., 2017). Fundamentally, guests have been able to establish and locate concealed cameras in clocks, alongside fake motion detectors mounted on the walls. Essentially, Airbnb is very unique in its operations and its unique nature unintentionally puts them in a very precarious position. It allows individuals to particularly put their respective homes up for rent, thus providing their guests a relatively cheaper alternative to hotels, that phenomenon is always accompanied by security as well as privacy risks.

The most recent instance, came about when Jeffrey Bigham, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, stated that he was able to spot a security camera which was tucked at a distance specified in the corner of an Airbnb home within which he was staying, on the New Year’s Eve in Seattle.  In a blog post, Jeffrey said that he was surprised why such a thing could happen and immediately unplugged them while referring to one in the living room alongside others from other rooms (O’Regan, et al., 2017). When he contacted Airbnb, the company informed him that the host had adequately disclosed the security cameras as found in the living room by indicating it in a photo specifically on the home’s listing. Markedly, the camera is not easily noticeable in the image, and what is even more disturbing is that the listing stated clearly that there were number cameras particularly at the entrance and not in the living room and this speaks volumes about Airbnb ethical values.

Theoretically, Airbnb is largely a peer-to-peer home sharing platform and justifiably so, the biggest contributor with respect to the sharing economy of the future, yet as it is growing bigger by the day, there are high chances of it morphing into an authorized shadow economy. To a larger extent, housing interests are justifiably concerned in the sense that the looming shortage with regards to the available dwellings alongside the surge in terms of rent prices is exacerbated by Airbnb’s entrepreneurial hosts. In certain instances, landlords find it necessary to evict tenants with an aim of using their properties for short-term Airbnb rentals, which appear more promising and lucrative and this obviously raises a number of ethical concerns.

References

O’Regan, M., & Choe, J. (2017). Airbnb and cultural capitalism: Enclosure and control within the sharing economy. Anatolia, 28(2), 163-172.

Oskam, J., & Boswijk, A. (2016). Airbnb: the future of networked hospitality businesses. Journal of Tourism Futures, 2(1), 22-42.

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