At the peak of connecting via the Internet and social media, the concept of sharing is now getting a makeover. Once something you’d save for close friends and family, sharing has now become a public act. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow us to share our pictures and thoughts; Pinterest has us sharing recipes, projects, and aspirations. Now, with the rise of coworking, ride-sharing, and sites like Airbnb, sharing with strangers is spreading beyond the digital realm and moving into real-world applications. America, meet the Sharing Economy.
Since the first American coworking space opened in 2005, the number of coworking spaces in the United States has increased to 781 in 2013. Much of that growth took place in the past two years as the coworking market increased 83% from 2012 to 2013 and coworking memberships increased by 117% in that same time frame. [source]
See also: Growth of Coworking in America
How does coworking contribute to a sharing economy?
Coworking is a new office model that is changing the face of the workplace. Unlike a company with a central office, coworking invites individuals of various professions to share the same space.
The layout of a coworking space itself also contributes to the culture of sharing. Instead of individual cubicles, coworking often offers communal tables, couches, and seating areas, or shared offices (in which workers have their own desk but in a shared space with a few others). Coworking is designed to allow professionals such as freelancers and self-starters to not only share the cost of an office space but to share ideas and collaborate within the space itself.
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Would you share your car with a stranger? The smartphone has allowed the birth of ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar (all of which are offered in the San Diego area). Ride-sharing services are a little like a more personal version of a taxi: Drivers usually use their own cars to offer lifts to strangers, and ride-shares can’t be hailed on the street like a taxi; instead, those needing a ride book it with a smartphone app.
On top of these ride-sharing startups, other websites are springing up across the web that help ordinary drivers and riders find a carpool buddy. Sites such as Ridejoy and CarpoolWorld help connect travelers and commuters who want to split the cost of gas, take turns driving, and get into that oh-so-lovely carpool lane. People who were once strangers are now sharing a part of every day together due to match ups made on carpool and ride-sharing sites (and the fluctuating cost of gas!).
See also: 4 Reasons to Work from a Shared Office
Airbnb is a service that allows users to share their most intimate setting: the home. Through Airbnb, hosts can offer a room in their home or their entire home as a vacation rental. For those with plans to travel, they can search Airbnb to find rentals that will give a true local experience, unlike a more tourist-centric experience at a hotel. The prices fluctuate, but most stays are extremely affordable: Single rooms can be booked for prices as low as $50 per night, and entire homes or apartments can be found around $200 per night.
Because Airbnb hosts offer their own homes (many times to stay alongside the hosts), the site can offer a huge variety of accommodations and even some crazy spaces, such as castles or igloos. Airbnb not only advertises this type of lodging as unique but also as the best way to experience the local culture: sharing a real home with real locals. For hosts, Airbnb can be a way for normal residents to make some extra income (and maybe some friends) in the sharing economy.
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The Sharing Economy
With so much access to people around the world, the Internet has allowed people to share, rent, and sell just about everything. This new sharing economy encourages real people to rent what they have— from offices to cars to homes— with people they’ve never met. While the concept may seem strange to some, these share-centric startups are diving into uncharted territory and beginning to challenge long-established industries.
In an Internet-driven world where over-sharing can sometimes be a problem, you can undoubtedly come across some strange offers for sharing; however, the new sharing economy puts an intriguing spin on business, one that is sure to grow, change, and test current markets as people embrace the idea of public sharing.