The rise of the sharing economy


They chose their rooms and paid for everything online. But their beds were provided by private individuals, rather than a hotel chain. Hosts and guests were matched up by Airbnb, a firm based in San Francisco. Since its launch in 2008 more than 4m people have used it—2.5m of them in 2012 alone.

It is the most prominent example of a huge new “sharing economy”, in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, co-ordinated via the internet. You might think this is no different from running a bed-and-breakfast, owning a timeshare or participating in a car pool. But technology has reduced transaction costs, making sharing assets cheaper and easier than ever—and therefore possible on a much larger scale

The Economist covers what there is to know about the sharing economy with a prime example, Airbnb.