How Couchsurfing Became One of the Largest Trust Experiments of All Time

Co-Founder of Couchsurfing Casey Fenton believes that people are fundamentally good and want to help each other. Fenton, who founded Couchsurfing in 2003 as a way to explore the world and meet new people while saving resources, describes Couchsurfing as a “backstage pass to the world.” Fenton views Couchsurfing and Airbnb as “overlapping circles” in that both allow more people to travel and get different perspectives on the world and themselves, while lowering the cost of traveling and decreasing its environmental footprint.

According to Fenton, by some measurements, Couchsurfing is the “largest trust experiment of all time,” and Fenton says that reputation is the key piece that made Couchsurfing possible. He explained the “cold start” problem of establishing a reputation on a sharing economy platform — when the platform is new and everyone’s profiles are self-reported, no one know who they can trust. Fenton’s new endeavor, Wonder, aims to solve this problem by establishing a system of universal reputation that travels with users from platform to platform.

Originally published at on June 23, 2016. Series: The Future of Sharing.