The temptation of profit

Posted on January 15, 2012 by


As I got really interesting feedback on my last two blog posts about CouchSurfing and as Nico picked this topic up again in his post “This is not even close to what I wanted to write about” I decided to make a new post about the same topic in order to answer all the questions that came up from readers of my last posts properly. At the same time, I would also like to provide more information about the background of the start-up CouchSurfing and about the reactions of people to CouchSurfings change to a for-profit organization.

You can see this post as a reaction post to the feedback I have received to my foregone posts. Just have a quick look at them and the comments to understand what I am talking about now.

What’s the difference for the members?

According to Nancys question, I would say yes, I think that CouchSurfings change from a non-profit organisation to a for-profit organisation might influence some user’s views and opinions about CouchSurfing, but according to my opinion that will not have such a big impact. A blog entry on Gigaom states that there are a couple of groups that formed in order to protest against these changes. I can understand that one has a better feeling about CouchSurfing if one can say that it’s a non-profit organisation because that enforces the impression that CS is just interested in enabling people to network around the world and is acting selflessly. It appears more sympathetic to you and is more congruent with CS’s philosophy and now having seen that it turned into a for-profit might make you wonder if the goals will still be the same in the future and if users will have any disadvantages soon.

Did they realize it at all?

But in fact many users didn’t even realize the change, because it doesn’t make any difference for them up to now, they can still use everything for free and a big advantage is that now the site design and the usability have been improved a lot.

What does the founder say?

Casey Fenton argued on his CouchSurfing-Blog that he tried for a long time to obtain the non-profit state, but the American inspecting authorities did not really understand the idea of CouchSurfing, as it was not traditional enough for them and they couldn’t see its social benefit. And when CS was still an (unofficial) non-profit with a low budget, they were able to cover maintenance costs of the website, but their budget was too low to employ technical engineers who could research for new technological innovations and improve the website and the features on it and keep CS competitive with other social networks, like for example Facebook.

According to Alina’s and Nancy’s question, what this change in status, from non-profit to for-profit, is all about, please have a look at my next post, where I am going to write about the legal and formal differences between a non-profit and a for-profit.