The Sharing Economy

A fresh phenomena quickly expanding its reach throughout the internet. The foundation of a global extension to traditional economies based on the idea of collaborative consumption of products, talents and services.

What is collaborative consumption then? As extreme case we can take the example of a yacht owner. He can only spend a certain amount of time on his ship. The rest of the time it is stuck in a harbor. For this wasted time of “ship possession” the owner probably even pays fees for the ship doing pretty much nothing — just for it to be available and waiting for him. So lets say the ships occupancy rate in this setup is at 20% (in fact it most likely is far lower!). The other 80% of the available ship time goes unused. The owner could now decide to share his yacht with other people and therefore boost the yacht’s occupancy rate while simultaneously making some money of it.

In the last couple of years the sharing economy experienced a staggering growth. Many of the nowadays omnipresent startups are based on the same idea: An individual on his own does not utilize the service or product in question to full capacity.

Airbnb, FlightCar, TaskRabbit, Lyft.. To name a few. Cloud computing in general somehow is an incarnation of the sharing economy on its own and nowadays the foundation for most of the software we use to accomplish everyday tasks. Why invest in high end server infrastructure if I can rent just the amount I require right now for a lower price? Cloud computing with just one user is not sustainable, but with many users who rely on the computational power to different times it is. Even the biggest of all encyclopedias itself, Wikipedia, is part of the sharing economy: Sharing knowledge and making it collaboratively consumable — the most famous pice of the social semantic web.

There are countries or even just specific cities where the sharing economy is already very well established. But there are also some non-software based participants which were there before the modern growth. Just think of the Turkish Dolmuş, a direct competitor to taxis but often cheaper because the passengers basically divide the price equally.

This text was written as part of the Social Semantic Web class at Boğaziçi University; Istanbul, Turkey.

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