The End of a Dream: Couchsurfing’s Fall

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Last year I decided to take a break and attend a Couchsurfing meetup in New York City. Though an active traveler, Couchsurfing in Europe and Asia, hosting and organizing events in San Francisco and Kansas City, here, in New York City, my hectic graduate school schedule had kept me less involved the past year.

I am an old-timer, joining Couchsurfing back in 2006 after learning about it from a fellow traveler at the beginning of my yearlong trip around the world. It was a new twist on an age-old idea, using a new-design to allow the internet to be a conduit between travelers and those with extra space in their homes. Back then, it was a sparse community, a handful of hosts in each country, and a few surfers, like me.

Nevertheless, I hosted dozens of people in Spain and surfed with hosts in Germany, Hungary, Turkey, the UAE, Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan, all positive experiences. It fulfilled a huge desire of mine – to gain local, cultural experiences, to learn from people in intimate, personal setting. Couchsurfing changed not only my life, but how I traveled and saw the world.

During that trip, I met many people in hostels, guesthouses, or bars, but found that the people I kept in closest touch with were Couchsurfers. It is how I met most of my best friends. It was the epitome of what I love about travel – sharing, learning, and growing – the famous Couchsurfing spirit, the genuine generosity and warmth of someone willing to let a complete stranger into their homes, and more importantly, into their lives.

It was the epitome of what I love about travel – sharing, learning, and growing – the famous Couchsurfing spirit, the genuine generosity and warmth of someone willing to let a complete stranger into their homes, and more importantly, into their lives.

It was the first community I felt proud to be a part of

photo #1

Hoping to meet some like-minded people in a more intimate setting, I joined some others for a pre-event dinner. Immediately, I noticed this was unlike any other Couchsurfing meetup I’d ever been to. The organizer had never used the site as a guest or host, only to meet people to go drinking with. The others had barely traveled, weren’t interested in talking with me, and didn’t actively host in New York. None of them seemed like real Couchsurfers.

At the actual meetup, it got even more strange. Upstairs in the dark, loud, and unfriendly bar was nearly two dozen guys, all American, and one girl, surrounded by guys. No one came up to welcome us, and the atmosphere felt stifling.

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“Man, where are all the girls?” said one of my dinner mates.

I left only 20 minutes later. That didn’t feel like the Couchsurfing spirit. Over the next year, as I returned and explored the new Couchsurfing, I found that the site which had changed my life, had changed itself for the worse.

Change is inevitable, a central facet of Buddhist teaching, and Couchsurfing is no different. But today I no longer feel I can recommend independent travelers to use Couchsurfing, and I no longer plan to use it much myself. Here is why.

More members, less community

photo #2

The first meetup I organized was back in April of 2008, a few months after returning from my world trip and moving to San Francisco. A potluck at a park, open to everyone. Over 50 people came; experienced surfers, newbies, recent high school grads, and retired professors. Locals and travelers from all around the world intermixed, and there were even children, playing on the rare, sunny San Francisco spring day. It was what I imagined – an open community of all ages. Everyone brought what they could, and there was more than enough food to go around. I still remember how amazing it felt to be around other like-minded Couchsurfers mixing freely, most having come on their own. Several of the people I met that day remain my friends, and two ended up getting married.

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We truly felt we were part of something special. Over the next year, I would organize numerous similar events, bringing people together and meeting other amazing travelers. Today, events like those are rare. My attempts to organize potlucks now get barely any response. In fact, its hard to find a Couchsurfing event in any city that is not a bar meetup, in which only a narrow age-range can attend, the underage and elderly excluded.

That is not to say there are not still good people on Couchsurfing – there are – and not every location has lost its community, but in the larger cities, the places that were once the heart of Couchsurfing – San Francisco, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, London – the community that was once so powerful at connecting people, is now mostly gone.

Why did this happen? Where are those people who attended meetups five years ago? There are many reasons.

Gender and Couchsurfing

Female backpacker

Couchsurfing has always had a gender imbalance, with more male members then females one. But it was not really an issue in the past, as it was more a reflection of the fact that men, unfortunately, have more freedom to travel than women.

Despite that, my first guest, back in 2006, when I was living with two other men in Granada, Spain, was a solo traveling female from Australia. Initially, I was shocked. Why would a girl want to stay with three single men, with a brand new profile, and no references? So I asked her.

“Couchsurfing, to me, is safer than hostels. Even if you have no references, at least I know who you are through your profile, versus in a hostel, I could be sharing a room with mentally-insane strangers.”

It made perfect sense. The thought of taking advantage of a guest, male or female, was unthinkable. Just as I knew a guest would never take advantage of our trust and steal anything – which, to this day, has never happened. It is that trust that Couchsurfing is based on, and it was enlightening. The potential of humanity to share and grow.

Amazingly, during my first three years as a member, I never heard of a single bad Couchsurfing experience – everything was positive, evidence of humanity’s good. Then, it began to change. Slowly, more negative stories arose – aggressive hosts, dirty places, uncomfortable situations. Now, it’s a 360 degree shift.

Female Couchsurfers tell me about how when they arrive in a city, they often get random messages from local males, often with suggestive, flirty content. It is not uncommon to see hosts in major cities whose entire wall of references is only girls. According to an ambassador in New York City, females posting on the message board in that city can get 50 messages from men, most of whom have empty or near empty profiles.

It was those people I saw at the so-called Couchsurfing meetup in New York. The females they’d sent those messages to probably had been too scared to come. Today, would anyone stay with three men who have an empty profile? The truth is, I would tell a girl never to do that, because it is too risky.

Is this the Couchsurfing spirit?

For profit Couchsurfing

Money

Why has Couchsurfing become so gendered? Why is the community weak?

I think the blame lies in its management. The site went for-profit last year, and now, following time-honored corporate practices, is focused solely on growth. Quantity over quality. The more members they have, the more valuable the site becomes to potential investors, or, as some rumors have it, to potential buyers. For-profit does not in itself mean that a network is bad – look at BootsnAll. But there is a huge difference.

Couchsurfing went private after spending years half-heartedly attempting to get non-profit status, then, without any warning, announcing that it has been unable to get the status and going for-profit as a B-corporation. All the donations they accepted until then vanished. A new CEO was hired from outside Couchsurfing, who does not even has a publicly viewable profile. More than $7 million was raised in private capital, including from people at Facebook. Changes to the site were made without any warning, wikis that longtime members had worked on for years were taken offline, all with vague promises that new features would make up for what was lost.

All this with no community engagement. Couchsurfing could learn from BootsnAll, a site that listens and engages with its members, and has proved resilient over the years, despite growing at a far slower pace than Couchsurfing. (Note – I’ve been a member here even longer than on Couchsurfing!)

Couchsurfing may have 5 million members and millions in private investment, but one look at the Ambassador’s Public group and its clear that the core membership is incredibly unhappy. That is not a positive direction forward. Lose your core, and the rest will soon follow.

The new leadership has also forced, without notification or community input, a redesigned, “Facebook-lite” site that no longer allows for meaningful interactions. Gone are the wikis members built over years and the popular city message boards, replaced with “location pages” with open, newsfeed like conversations of short comments. Gone is the ability for moderators to flag important threads, send mass-invites to local events, or foster deep discussions. Not surprisingly, spam now dominates. Trying to find quality information about local sites or the local community is nearly impossible, and quality interactions are harder to find. In San Francisco, the weekly meetup I started is gone, the potlucks, which went on for nearly three years, now forgotten. Despite millions more members, the community seems to have disappeared.

The next, better Couchsurfing?

photo #4

I used to say that Couchsurfing was globalization done right, where ideas and exchange mattered more than money or status. When you met someone who said they were a Couchsurfer, that it meant they had a different viewpoint on life, that they knew how to share, and were culturally open minded.

Back in the day, we would test travelers to see if they were worthy of Couchsurfing – if they had the values or mindset to join. Once, I met a friendly Malaysian in Bulgaria, with whom I shared a train ride with. Couchsurfing was so small back then that Noel had never heard of it. But I felt he was an open, warm, giving person, so I told him about Couchsurfing and recommended he join. He did and quickly became an active user, and later, an Ambassador.

That was natural, organic growth, a site which spread through word of mouth, introduced by people who shared the same ideals. If you were meant to be a Couchsurfer, you would find it. If not, it would remain apart, a subculture in a world of diversity. With time, we felt, the larger society would be ready.

Unfortunately, we live in a world obsessed with growth, and the Couchsurfing management has fallen into this corporate trap. Was it inevitable that the site would expand beyond word-of-mouth? Probably. Could it have been done in a way that respected the values and people that spurred Couchsurfing’s initial organic growth. Definitely.

All those friends I made four, five, or six years ago, as a surfer in Europe, or at my potlucks, today, most of them barely use the site anymore. Some stopped hosting due to bad experiences, others because the site no longer fits their lives as its once did. It strikes me as incredibly sad. How many of the five million that Couchsurfing regularly touts are disillusioned members?
Because Couchsurfing has lost its base, it is now dependent on only one thing; growth at any cost.

Couchsurfing was a social network that created positive interactions and make the world a better place. I still believe that we can turn the internet into the amazing, transnational, cultural tool for social change.

Unfortunately, Couchsurfing is no longer that platform, and may no longer even be a good site for travelers anymore, especially women. Will another site emerge? I hope so. We, the community who made Couchsurfing are still there, waiting for the opportunity to transform travel and the world.

Are you a Couchsurfer? How long have you been a member? Do you agree or disagree with the author’s take on the current state of Couchsurfing? Comment below to share your thoughts.

For more on Couchsurfing and other travel communities, read:

To read more from and about author Nithin Coca, check out his author bio.

 

manifesto - value interactions

Photo credits: m-louis, Erik J. Gustagson, all others courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.

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  • Kristin Pedemonti said at 2013-05-06T16:35:33+0000: You've said much of what's been in my heart/mind. I hope somehow the leaders in CS will get the msg and listen to its surfers; to see the HEART of what made CS so beautiful. I'm "officially" a Couch Surfer since July 2008, NYC. LOVED it the first several years. Some of the best friends I've ever had I met through Couch surfing. I used to organize tons of events in NYC: I surfed, I hosted, was involved in the weekly meetups, organized FREE HUGS in cities around the world, language exchanges, dance events and I used CS when I traveled. I met so many Wonderful people. Moved out of NYC Sept 2010 but still remained quite active til mid 2011. Yes, CS has changed. Especially since it went for Profit. The new site is AWFUL; NOT user friendly which is so sad. I've also noticed a change in the people. Some of this is the fault of media & how CS is portrayed. Most of the articles I've read focus on the "Inexpensive way to travel" rather than what almost all the CSers I know (including myself) rate as the number 1 reason we're in CS: "Creating friendships and understanding culture" :( I have still had some GREAT experiences in the last year. I surfed in Edinburgh and in Galway; both fantastic times with lovely hosts. I now organize many of my events on FB. Some CSers have jumped to Be Welcome. Sending us all HUGS. and Hope.
  • Jonathon Kendall said at 2013-05-06T21:58:27+0000: The point of CS is to connect travelers with hosts is it not?As a host I've never had a bad experience because you can smell someone's insincerity a mile a way. "I'm in town to look for a job and need a place to stay," for example. These sorts of requests are easily dismissible. And if you're uninterested or creeped out by meetups then don't go to them. I don't for the very same reasons.I'm fairly convinced that CS is still a positive influence in our world. Compared to corporate chain hotels or (even more money hungry) hostels who pack large dull rooms with as many people as possible...a glass of wine with a stranger in their living room is by far and away still the best choice out there. I understand where the author is coming from and her annoyances are valid, though to completely invalidate couchsurfing because a bunch of desperate men without references are using it for the wrong reasons, is a little extreme. That's why couchsurfing allows for "choice." Don't stay with someone unless they have ten references then? Or don't stay with men who only host girls? Or don't host people without references? You are your own filter. Therefore CS will be what you make of it, and nothing more. So for me -- CS has been and will continue to be the most important website I've ever come across.Let the cynics leave for all I care. I'll find the great CS's amongst the bedlam and we'll drink wine together and it will be grand.
  • Veronica Lescay said at 2013-05-06T17:32:54+0000: As a solo female traveler, I agree with many of the points Nithin makes. I've had a couple of questionable experiences from Couchsurfing, but the 95% of the time that it turned out to be an amazing adventure surely made up for it. I've surfed with about 40 people all over the world, and thanks to them my travels have been extraordinary. Hence, I wouldn't go as far to say that Couchsurfing is dead - it's not. Yes, you'll have to be more careful and screen potential hosts and surfers, but the added benefit of more members is that there are more hosts, many even in off the beaten path.
  • Shelby Cheri Woods said at 2013-05-06T16:31:35+0000: Reading this article is one of those strange sensations where you feel like you're reading about the death of your youth. It's an excellent & thoughtful read, but very bittersweet. Couchsurfing was the most incredible experience for me when I traveled around Europe in 2009. I played guitar in Pisa, rode on teh back of a motorbike in Corfue, Greece and shopped a local market in Milan. These were experiences I would never had without the gracious, kind hosts I met through CS. I feel privileged to have experienced it before it all got so complicated. Thanks for this article.
  • Malia Moss said at 2013-05-06T22:18:53+0000: I'm one of those rare and mysterious lone female couchsurfers and I love the hell out of couchsurfing. Even to the point of making videos about how to do it so that other people can join in. I joined in 2010 when I moved to France. A friend of mine recommended it after traveling the world for 7 months and I thought it sounded like a great way to meet locals. At the time I was mostly interested in meeting and listening to native Irish people when I visited Dublin, but discovered some of the best travel experiences of my life through my CS hosts. I quickly discovered that I was done with hostels and would never go back. I want to address the section of this article about women and couchsurfing... bullshit. I'm not going to say that I haven't been looking for a host in a new city and been messaged by a questionable gentlemen. Of course I have, I'm hot. But I've also been propositioned on EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITE I'M A PART OF. Does this prevent me from checking my facebook or going on tumblr? No. Do I contact these gentlemen who seem nefarious and are using well known social media sites to try to get their jollies? No. I'm saying this is and has been a problem with SOCIETY for years, not a problem with couchsurfing. Questionable men are everywhere and are going to talk to you. When looking for a host, DON'T STAY WITH THEM! It's that simple. When a creepy dudes that I have no connection to friends me on facebook then says he likes the swerve of my curve, I don't add him then message him back asking about that charming expression and where it originated. I ignore and report the idiot. Couchsurfing has grown and it has changed. Because as ANYTHING grows it changes. Does that mean its dead and a ruin of what it once was? No. Fuck you. This guy had a few bad experiences and has decided the community on the whole is dead and because money became involved that CS has become the next Enron. Go star in a god damn play you drama queen. When facebook when from college/invite only to open to everyone hooray, yes some aspects of it changed. Yes I started getting messaged by creepers outside of my college, but did facebook die? Did it cease to serve its purpose or be a useful social media device? Hell no. And the same can be said of couchsurfing. As CS becomes more well known there are going to be a lot more types of people using it. That's the nature actively including more people. That's what happens when you stop acting like the gate keeper to a secret club and determine someones "worthiness" based on your opinion. CS is not "falling", it's changing. And change is a good thing.
  • Marian Schembari said at 2013-05-06T22:10:28+0000: I'm the Social Media Manager at Couchsurfing and it breaks my heart when members feel abandoned by Couchsurfing. Before working here, I was an active member of the Auckland Couchsurfing community. I used CS to backpack across Australia where I stayed on couches, futons, floors and guest rooms. I stayed with single women, young couples, elderly couples and men. It was love at first surf.When I left Australia for New Zealand, I attended my first weekly drinks. I took art tours and learned to cook Indian food. I went on weekend getaways with groups from France, Ireland and Turkey and motorcycled through the mountains of Northern New Zealand with an Indian doctor twice my age.Fast forward a year (I guess I'm one of those relatively new members Nithin talks about) and I now work at CSHQ. Many of my coworkers are long-time surfers, others are not. A few run weekly events in San Francisco, others regularly host but never surf. It's the diversity and generosity that makes this community so special. That wouldn't exist if everyone had to be "tested" like Nithin suggests.I completely understand this is a tough transition; from an old site coded by volunteers to a new platform built by a "corporation." From where I stand though, the community is by no means dying. There are website kinks to work out, sure, but blaming new members isn't the answer. I want more than anything for older members of the community to respect and appreciate the new members. It shouldn't be a battle, and that's what frustrates me most about this post.Of course, every surfer is entitled to their opinion and if a smaller, more selective community is more your style, that's completely valid. However, there are a few points made by Nithin I want to clarify as they're factually incorrect:1. "Couchsurfing has always had a gender imbalance, with more male members then females one."This is not true. Our community is split almost perfectly 50/50 male/female.2. "The site went for-profit last year, and now, following time-honored corporate practices, is focused solely on growth. Quantity over quality."The entire team at CSHQ is focused on making the website better. We never advertise and we don't actively peruse new members. We grew by almost 3 million members last year by word of mouth alone. All our energy is used to make the site work better for surfing, hosting and events. I hope the members who truly care about the community and what CS stands for will stick around for the ride.
  • Jim Camden said at 2013-05-08T04:07:56+0000: I join in 06, I discovered a chat room on the site, I went in, and my life was changed forever. Here was a group of CS'ers who became friends and then more like family, spread all over the planet, who started to make plans to travel to see each other, we had and still to this day have gatherings in one of our members city's around the world. CS closed the chat room the same day they hit 1,000,000 members. Our tight group who knew the site better then most, were kicked to the curb. Most of us turned in our Ambassadorships and drifted away from the site, we have kept our group together through the use of facebook. We are still going strong, (as I figured this group would, remember, this is the best people in the world) and we have a rich history. For me C$ jumped the shark that day. And it went down hill from there, to where it is now. Welcome to the new Couch Searching.***.
  • Maikel Lourenssen said at 2013-05-07T03:45:19+0000: It is sad but thrue. I am a long time member as well of Couchsurfing and still am an Ambassador to have a chance to know what is going on and what the developments are. In the past I adviced many nice people to join but now if people are nice I wouldn't advice them to join Couchsurfing. Last time when I organised a bicycle trip around Eindhoven (Netherlands) we even had a few new couchsurfers that have heared of it a long time ago and were really happy by the stories they heared in the past. I felt sad that I had to tell them that the couchsurfing site has changed and the comunity is being killed by these changes. As I want to show that there are still good and active people I try to keep on organising events. Message boards that I had are moved to Facebook by me so discussions can no longer be censored by any CS corphead. Soon in Italy I organise my last picnic that has become a tradition since 2006 with over 200 members attending a simple potluck picnic in Italy. This summer will the the very last one an end of the big events that I used to organise is nearing. I can't find the way reaching people anymore and to prevent myself getting more frustrated I will quit as ambassador after this summer. Though I try to stay active but not for the organisation but for the people that want the same as in 2008-2010. Meetup and have fun outside in the nature. Once the old meeting system is gone I will quit. (now the system is already hidden but still works). Without the old meeting system all my tools for bringing people together are gone.
  • Kasper Souren said at 2013-05-07T13:12:14+0000: What's happening now with CS has been predicted since at least 2007. The "conversion" to C corporation was in 2011, almost 2 years ago. BeWelcome.org, a dedicated group of volunteers with a proper French non profit org plus open source software, has been around for a long time but growth only took off after the CS conversion. While BW is still far from perfect it's definitely a good alternative if you're in search of the hospitality exchange vibe from 2005/2006.
  • Luis Betancourt said at 2013-05-07T11:17:45+0000: So sad! I completely agree! :( I was part of the growth in Buenos Aires and Bogotá and I met wonderful people during those days (2007-2009) but then I saw what you describe systematically happening in both communities!
  • Katrina Stovold said at 2013-05-06T17:03:11+0000: 1) agree, sadly; member since 2007; have moved on to Tripping.com and BeWelcome.org, though am not using either of them as much as CS. 2) 180 degrees, not 360. 3) if the author is concerned about gender imbalances, he should stop saying "girls" and "men".
  • Gökhan Hepşen said at 2013-05-10T10:06:01+0000: A perfect article that explains a lot. I feel like I was living in a small cozy town with lots of natural unique beauties and then in a very short of time it became a touristic place where zillions of people coming and destroying it.I'm a member since 2006 and hosted and surfed more than 100 CS'ers but frankly I'm not using it actively for last 2 years. Why?- Because recent guests with no references were coming and after spending good time, there were not leaving a reference even thou I leave them. And also there were not doing couchsurfing after all. I was a free parking spot, that was all.- Because the meetings...First times we were spending time in public ares where people bring and share their food. Now it's always in fancy places(at least here in istanbul) where you have to pay pretty much money for a few beers. You may be rich and afford that but we are world travelers on budget and even if we are not we should show respect to this idea.- Because of male invasion over females. Nothing to say, they say it's like that everywhere around the world no matter which country. Might be so but here in Istanbul I think it's much worse.- Because of stupid new web design. The old interface always seemed like unprofessional but now I regret to say that. Currently, the design is one of the worst I have ever seen.There was a time, like said in article, I was proud of being a member of this community. Now I'm not even mentioning it in public because people start to say "wow so are you getting laid with lots of foreign woman?"I'll try my luck in be welcome. Hopefully I may find that old CS spirit in there.good luck to you all good ol' CS'ers. It was a great pleasure to had a chance to meet you!R.I.P Couchsurfinggökhan
  • Marie-Line Villers said at 2013-05-07T06:45:08+0000: joined also in 2006 and had the best moments of my life, it added incredibly much to my years of travel and I am so thankful to have had this time... its indeed definitely not the same anymore, harder to find hosts you really connect with, and the real open feel at events... but I am thankful at least I had this in my life...
  • Amy Scott said at 2013-05-06T16:52:09+0000: I've been a member of Couchsurfing since 2004, and some of my most memorable travel experiences—and many close friendships—happened because of CS. I've been hearing similar rumblings around the Web, and while I haven't been as active recently to see it happening first-hand, hearing about these changes makes me sad. However, I had great experiences surfing just a few months ago, and I'm glad to have been able to introduce my husband to the concept. I don't think I'll stop surfing or hosting, or using the website, but it's important to know how it's changed and that you may have to look a little deeper to find the wonderful people who are still there.
  • Aviva la Loca said at 2013-05-06T23:55:41+0000: It's so funny to read this very well-spoken (couldn't do better myself) article and then get eager to read people's comments...so I scroll down a bit more and the first comment I see is Kristin Pedemonti! It's a small (CS!) world. That's all, I love coincidences and hosting the "good/true" CS'ers :)
  • Ramin Farhangi said at 2013-05-07T09:53:20+0000: Hi there! I'm a couchsurfer (hosted about 40 people in Paris), and I think that your point of view is a bit exaggerated. I understand your frustration with not being able to organize these beautiful social events that you had once known in a certain golden age of CS, and yes, maybe the site is not really well adapted to this anymore. But the basic surfing/hosting feature (the reason why 99% of us are on CS) still works great, and thanks to growth, travelers now have a much wider choice of hosts. And as long as they chose people with good references, the experience WILL be positive. For instance, this Australian girl would have the choice to stay with me: Mister 40 positive references, instead of 3 unreferenced, potentially dangerous strangers. So boycotting CS as a whole seems like an exaggerated reaction to me: as long as you chose your hosts/guests properly, CS will always be the wonderful experience you've known in the past, because CSers with references are the same wonderful people you met back in the old days. The tool has evolved, but the people are the same: trusting/trustworthy, outgoing, adventurous, caring, etc. So please come back to us, and just enjoy life instead of complaining. Your call to boycotting CS will not make our lives more positive.
  • Jill Lian Goddard said at 2013-05-06T23:24:02+0000: I'm a longtime member. I used Servas a long time ago and loved Couchsurfing for the first few years. I COMPLETELY agree with everything you've said in your article. Several loyal CSers and I were talking about it a couple of months ago and we don't like what's happened in the last year. Is it because it went corporate? I don't know but the timing is a hell of a coincidence. I've seen more alcohol and more drinking, more casual sex and more drunk people in the last year than I saw in the previous four. I've had absolutely ridiculous requests and seen people posting on msg boards as though they're entitled to a place to stay. And I don't enjoy it. If all CSing is about now is meeting up in bars to drink or drinking at each others houses then it's definitely not or me. I just wish I could find a good alternative on this side of the world. A place where I could, once again, find like minded folks ho believe in gift economies, have a clue about sexism and racism, and are focused in their life on making the world a more heart filled place.
  • Michael Hodson said at 2013-05-06T14:32:35+0000: Really great, thoughtful, and fully explained post/argument here. Impressive.
  • Lalit Raj said at 2013-05-08T14:24:52+0000: "Back in the day, we would test travelers to see if they were worthy of Couchsurfing".Really? I can't tell you how much this irks me. This is exactly the kind of attitude that makes new Couchsurfers unwelcome, and is analogous to the "hardcore" burners at Burning Man who make BM virgins feel alienated because they (the virgins) apparently don't have enough street cred yet. Just because you joined in 2006, suddenly you are the authority to decide who is worthy enough to join? Give me a break.Of course there are problems with a larger group that don't arise in small groups. Apart from "it should never have changed", I see a lot of complaining but very few solutions suggested. Or are you saying the cancer is so widespread that there is no saving it now?Look, I get it. You liked something a lot. Then a lot more people found out about it and it changed. Now, you don't like it anymore. In my opinion, if you love something enough, you will strive to embrace the changes, warts and all. I know many "oldtimers" like yourself who are concerned but are still actively involved in CS, trying to ensure new CSers are embraced, not alienated. Others like yourself choose to wax eloquently about the good ol' days without actually offering solutions.As much as the Couchsurfing hates to lose a member, if you really dislike it so much, perhaps your departure is best for everyone.
  • Jai Schmidt said at 2013-05-13T07:43:55+0000: Couchsurfing has become a dating site, craigslist if you will. Guys want to hang out with hot girls and host them. About a year ago, an entire thread was dedicated to what guys thought it was ok to sleep with their surfers. Guys pœpular in the local NYC community did it and spoke openly about it. One particular guy I saw had no negative references. Now, as you say, it has so much spam. Club promoters post all the time for their own profit, yet they have never hosted or travelled. But I posted an event for couchsurfers at a local bar, and the moderators removed it due to "commercial spam." Many members engage in bullying of other members, local or not. One guy in NYC interogated me about a guy whom he never met before who lived in Boston about whether he was gay or not! 1. You've never met the guy. 2. Its 2013. Who cares? Even more scarey, and why I'm not taking part in couchsurfing as I did, was that I met 2 Hezballah supporters who didn't show their true colors to the masses so everyone thought they were so great. Also some people against Israel and Jews in general. Once again, its 2013. It just goes to show you that people who work so hard to prove that they are so open minded about race and country are still prejudiced. But on couchsurfing, if you confront prejudice, you are seen as negative. While I've had great experiences travelling and hosting, the underlying prejudice is what leads me to believe that many of these people truly are freeloaders who want to party, but haven't evolved.
  • Amelia Towle said at 2013-05-07T17:20:13+0000: As a solo female traveler myself, I have found couchsurfing a comfort - knowing that someone is waiting for me when I arrive, and will worry if I don't get home by a certain time, and have always felt well taken care of; when I lost my passport in Spain, and when I had a currency crisis in Czech Rep, my hosts were my saving grace, and helped me through it in whatever way they could; had I been in hostels I would have been screwed. So I still recommend it to females, though I do advise them to do their research when choosing a host. I have never had any terrible experiences in someone's home, but was recently sent an angry message from a host for leaving him a NEUTRAL response, and I was irritated that I had to DEFEND my ref and explain that the integrity of CS DEPENDS on honest references (and for the record, he wasn't a bad host, he was just kinda pushy about food). I have experiences the 'mass emails from random men', especially when I was traveling in Italy, but I just ignored them. I don't attend the weekly meetings here in Bangkok because I do feel like people just want to hook up, and I'm not interested in wasting my time with that, and I recently (politely but firmly) scolded a request-er for asking if he could "stash his stuff" at my place while he wandered the area...I'm not a storage locker, and I don't appreciate being thought of as one. I've made some really good friends through couchsurfing here in Thailand and in Europe, and been lucky enough to host one or two that have then been able to return the favor and host me again elsewhere, but I can't say that I'm anticipating using it much in the States.
  • Chili Peppers: A Spicy Quest said at 2013-05-07T17:07:20+0000: Hey guys - I'm the author using a different FB account (i don't use FB)! thanks for all the positive comments, criticism, and shares, wow! Obviously this is a topic that brings out strong opinions and sentiments. if you want to email me directly - freelance@nithincoca.com.A few points.#1 - I'm a male, not a female (saw myself referred to as "she" or "her" a few times. #2 - Not every city is the same, many have great communities. For example, I was in Taiwan last year and had amazing CS experiences. That being said, the direction of the site is definitely going in the wrong direction. #3 - Some people choose to blame the victims for "not using the site properly" or "not paying attention to profiles." My personal philosophy is to never blame the victim. I blame the perpetrators or the system that allows perpetrators to continue to use the site - the CS management. Also, assuming that men are naturally sexual predators is wrong - that again places blame on the victims, and, frankly, excuses bad behavoir. Our society is overly sexualized, and that seeps into places like CS, FB, etc. It is not by any means a "natural" system. (sorry, a bit of a tangent...) #4 - I still use CS - but only occasionally, to surf or host, and maybe organize in a non-big city (like Kansas City, where I am now) but far less than before for the reasons stated.I'm an optimist, who believes in the good of humanity - an idealist, even, so that's why I wrote this. To spur action for good!
  • ShelleRae O'Connor said at 2013-05-07T16:17:56+0000: I'm a long time CSer but not an old timer, I am unique in that I lived BaseCamp. I agree with this article. It says many things I too couldn't put into words and maybe didn't want to.What I see is a mirror - the new members are as invested in couchsurfing as the core team is. Tony's profile is hidden and the mirror is incomplete, uninvested, and nontransparent members. Of course there are more but Tony leads and sets the tone and creates the culture. Casey Fenton wasn't/isn't perfect but the culture he brought certainly was genuine, transparent and held to the idea of "the famous Couchsurfing spirit, the genuine generosity and warmth of someone willing to let a complete stranger into their homes, and more importantly, into their lives".I don't surf as much as I used to. I just moved and can finally host as I have always wanted to. I probably won't stop but like everyone else - AirBnB, BeWelcome and other venues including even facebook connects will become sources more so that CS.
  • Maggle Magpie said at 2013-05-07T22:45:54+0000: Iv I am a woman who travels alone and has used couchsurfing as a reliable tool the past 2 years. In fact as I write this I am staying with an Afghani man in Antwerp who taught me some Farsi today while showing me around his city. I have had 40 experiences as a surfer and they have run the gamut from extremely enlightening to very, very creepy. I have had quite a few more of the latter recently than the former (though my current host is pretty cool). I too put it down to couchsurfing's change in management and hope that the new owners will take some of the author's points into consideration. It would be unfortunate to lose such an amazing community spirit.
  • Isma OB said at 2013-05-08T11:49:55+0000: I think this article reflect almost 100% of what couchsurfing has become, I actually does not use it anymore or feel like using it. I think there is a lot of people that use it to hook up with girls or to take advantage of a free acomodation more than a cultural and personal exchange of host and guest.