Quality standards, service orientation, and power in Airbnb and Couchsurfing

Maximilian Klein, Jinhao Zhao, Jiajun Ni, Isaac Johnson, Benjamin Mako Hill, Haiyi Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Although Couchsurfing and Airbnb are both online communities that help users host strangers in their homes, they differ in an important sense: Couchsurfing prohibits monetary payment while Airbnb is built around it. We conducted interviews with users experienced on both Couchsurfing and Airbnb ("dual-users") to better understand systemic differences between the platforms. Based on these interviews we propose that, compared to Couchsurfing, Airbnb: (1) appears to require higher quality services, (2) places more emphasis on places over people, and (3) shifts social power from hosts to guests. Using public profiles from both platforms, we present analyses exploring each theme. Finally, we present evidence showing that Airbnb's growth has coincided with a decline in Couchsurfing. Taken together, our findings paint a complex picture of the changing character of network hospitality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number58
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Airbnb
  • Couchsurfing
  • Money
  • Motivation
  • Network hospitality
  • Peer-to-peer exchange
  • Sharing economy
  • Social cost

Cite this