Lately, there’s been a lot of divided opinions (more against it than for it) about Casey Fenton’s decision to raise money and turn Couchsurfing into a B-corp. It created legions of angry CS’ers and sparked heated debate among the themes of capitalism, altruistic communities, and [corrupted] corporations.
How I feel about the anti-corporation community:
Some people were demanding that Casey give up Couchsurfing and upgrade its members to shareholder status. To that I say: CS is still Casey’s project and he doesn’t owe any piece of it to any of you. You have every right to your own opinion and to play along or go elsewhere, but you don’t have any right to his intellectual property. Just because I use Youtube and share links with all my friends doesn’t mean Youtube owes me a percentage of their company.
Being a user of the site, we are all essentially “non-profit shareholders” of CS. We are all a part of this community and own it in the sense that we represent the company. Without users, CS is nothing.
We are already benefiting from the great service and travel convenience that it offers. Now you wanted money too for being a part of this? Or are you now wanting money because someone else is profiting money? (Is it not enough that you get to contribute to the ideals of couchsurfing? You want a reward, too?) I guess your argument supports the point of corporations moreso than it challenges it.
And for all the questions about “why didn’t Casey ask for more money?” That’s not what CS’ing is all about. It’s not about asking money for free couches.
As for all the questions of “Why didn’t Casey do this? Why didn’t Casey do that?”, Casey made the best decision to benefit the corporation as well as the community. He didn’t need to ask the CS community because he had the support of some of the world’s smartest and most experienced. And yes, they’re going to make a shit-ton of money. We [Americans] still live in a world where things cost money and those who have more will live more comfortably than those who don’t. Having money doesn’t necessarily mean your quality of life is better. You might be just as stressed out and unhappy as anybody else…but at least you get to do it from the comforts of a leather armchair and not a concrete floor of the subway station. Personally, I’d rather have a sucky life in a mansion.
It seems to me that many of the arguments are simply anti-corporation sentiments. They’re jaded by the big heartless corporations that sold their country’s natural resources, child labor, oil spill, manipulative advertising, etc. People will argue that a for-profit corporation will always become corrupted sooner or later because their first priority will always be about making money than it is to contribute to the community.
It doesn’t matter if a company is a profit corporation or non-profit corporation, it will ALWAYS have an opportunity and motive to be corrupted.
Couchsurfing Making A Profit
The way I see it, it’s good if Casey finds a way to make money while still providing the service for free. Re-designing and re-organizing the company so that it can take care of itself as it takes care of others. It’s not about profits, it’s about becoming self-sustainable. And for a corporation, the blood of self-sustainability can be MONEY.
Corporations are not inherently bad because they have a need to profit. Any corporation, profit or non-profit, can only prosper by giving us exactly what we want. If the new corporate CS fails to give users the experience they want in a traveler site, they will not exist (let alone make any money).
There is no reason why they aren’t allowed to make money. The only way a corporation will be successful if we are happy. And as long as we are happy, nothing else should matter. (Assuming no laws are broken, environments left unharmed, nobody exploited.)
There were even claims of Couchsurfing being a monopoly. That it FORCED users to turn into a profiting corporation. Couchsurfing is simply the best community, you are not forced to take part in it. (Btw, almost all the other traveler hospitality sites are FOR-PROFIT companies.)
I personally don’t care if CS makes a billion dollars as long as it delivers the best couchsurfing experience out there. The concept saved me a lot of money and if the service remains free, I think it’s fair that somebody profits out of this. As it stands, CS is the best traveler-hosting website and until that changes, I have no choice but to put up with whatever they do.
The Most Important Thing:
Is that the community of free hospitality is kept alive. Stay or leave CS if you want, but just don’t forget to do your part in helping other travelers out. You are not TRAPPED or FORCED to do anything against your will. You still have your most important power, which is the power to meet travelers and still has fun.
And hey, guess what…maybe CS will be BETTER because of this new transformation. It might be the beginning of a new era. More helpful features added as they make money while delivering a better “FREE” site for CS’ers. I don’t see how CS can last, providing server bandwidth for free to millions of travelers. The users still have all the power, we leave the site and take our communities with us if they don’t deliver what we want.