Founded in 2004, Couchsurfing was an innovative leader in peer to peer lodging, providing a platform for travelers to find a free place to sleep around the world, and facilitating cultural exchanges. Especially popular with the low budget backpacking crowd, Couchsurfing changed the way many people approached travel and lodging.
A number of competitors in this same space have emerged in the past few years, but none have come close to the size or popularity of Couchsurfing. At the same time variations on the CS theme, like trading work for lodging, have also been gaining traction. As with AirBnb, Lyft and other first-to-market peer to peer companies, Couchsurfing faced some scandals and organizational difficulties as a part of their growing pains. Still without a clear monetization plan, Couchsurfing remains a much used site for many of it’s 9 million members.
A recent Skift article discusses the decision to implement a new leadership team and Couchsurfing’s plans for the future. While it doesn’t reveal anything ground breaking or particularly innovative, the article does suggest Couchsurfing is making a concerted effort to regain their leadership position in sharing economy lodging. With such a dominant presence as one of the few free options that offer real time hospitality lodging with nothing required in return, I hope the new leadership team can come up with a formula that maintains the value for travelers.