This paper describes the history of Couchsurfing, a platform matching free, peer-to-peer hospitality launched in 2004, as a series of four deaths and resurrections. The platform was first brought back to life by its members, in the spirit of open collaboration, then by its leaders, in an effort to legitimize the platform as a US-based charity, then by Silicon Valley investors, seeking to mold it into a profitable startup, and finally by private investors, only to find itself yet again in jeopardy as a result of Covid-19. The aim of the paper is to consider what the history of this niche platform tells us about the changing ecology of the Web as a whole. Through that lens, Couchsurfing’s struggles to respond to drastic changes in its environment are indicative of the growing specialization of the Web into a closed and monetized information ecosystem.
Bibliografisk notePublished online: 19 Apr 2022.
- Platform history
- Platform death
- Web ecology
- Ecology of ideas