Like some of the most exciting startups of this century, Airbnb is a new kind of “aggregation” platform. It’s a portal that connects producers and consumers in the marketplace for accommodations—like Facebook does for content, or Amazon for commerce, or Uber for driving.
Last year was the best year ever for hotel occupancy in the United States. The stock prices for the major hoteliers Marriott and Hilton are both up more than 40 percent in the last 12 months. The construction rates of hotels hasn’t kept up with demand, so, if it weren’t for the disruptive network of private rentals, travelers might be facing sky-high hotel rates.
Like just about every story these days about revolutionary tech platforms, Airbnb is a story both of democratized access to commerce and the unintended consequences of those democratizing efforts, even when they succeed on their own terms.