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The Rise and Fall of Couchsurfing

A sad story.

The idea was to favor and stimulate cultural exchange between foreign travelers and local communities.

The website was created in 2004 and quickly became popular among backpackers and other adventurers.

As time went by, major business outlets started reporting the story of “travelers hosting other travelers for free” and the number of users exponentially grew.

An increase of users translated to a decrease in quality, trust, and involvement, and so the small community that was once vibrant lost its shine and appeal.

The increase of users ironically sounded the death knell of Couchsurfing.

Most of the articles narrating the rise and fall of Couchsurfing did so in 2015. Having joined in 2013, I realize I’m late to the party.

I started using Couchsurfing in Australia in 2013 to make friends since I didn’t know anyone.

The “event” feature was what I enjoyed the most because I was looking for friends.

I remember my first meeting in a bar called “Frisk” in Perth. I stood outside the venue for 10 minutes because I was too shy to enter and say hi to people.

When I finally gathered the courage to physically make a move, the members engaged with me and made me feel welcome instantly.

I subsequently returned often to the meetings and ended up joining Couchsurfing events in all of the other cities I have visited then.

I even celebrated NYE with Couchsurfing twice, once in Amsterdam, and once in Paris.

As the years went by though, things started to change. Meetings emptied out. The gender balance (which already tilted towards male presence) worsened.

The website got a complete makeover, with many members-generated content disappearing.

Simpler and neater, the new platform introduced categories to rate hosts and guests (like Airbnb), ads, and…

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