If my profile gets deleted, you guys can be witness to their censorship! And my BeWelcome profile is available on the sidebar of my blog. I really hope BW won’t disappoint me the same way CS did.
I was part of couchsurfing since I started university in 2005. My initial profile was deleted in 2006, together with other thousands (server crash or something). For a while, I stayed away, just sharing my floor and couch with friends and friends of friends, kind of having my own couchsurfing through my connections. I came back in 2009, didn’t remain active and made a new profile in 2011. Since then, I have organized events, sang praises about the community, hosted several people in my house, showed the places I have lived (and not lived) to strangers I couldn’t host. It’s been great.
Since the very beginning, I have donated quite a bit of money to the place and gained the “pioneer” badge… donated money to a community that, at the time, was non-profit and had no intention of making money out of it. Well, who needs hotels when you can have the kindness of some amazing people?
When I rejoined in 2011, as usual, I got that nice welcome email, showing how great the community was etc. And it indeed was a great community. Soon after, I got another email, saying that couchsurfing was no longer non-profit, but it didn’t mean it was for-profit. Quite a heart-warming email from the co-founder.
Here is a copy of the main point of the email that still shocks me:
— Just because we’re not a non-profit doesn’t mean we’re actually “for” profit. CouchSurfing is not for sale, and money is not our goal. We recognize that the community is what makes this movement real and supporting it is what our organization is here for. Everyone on our staff is a CouchSurfing member, and we want to keep it that way.
Well, fair enough… since thousands of us donated money, I am ok with no one capitalizing from our donations.
Again, not soon after this email was sent, this time with no email sent to members, CS became a for-profit company.
In my view, this is what happened:
- While still a non-profit, they accepted donations, both through money and goodwill of people, and managed to build quite a big operation;
- The non-profit, which was built with donation money and marketing done with its thousands of ambassadors/users who dedicated their time to organize events etc, became full-on for-profit and got massive injections of capital from venture capitalists;
- They ruined the website and absolutely destroyed community.
Ever since these changes happened, CS has been accused of censorship (don’t you mention BeWelcome in their website, otherwise you will have your account deleted!), amongst several other things.
I am still part of the community… but bringing my business elsewhere. I don’t think it is fair for a company to capitalize on the kindness of others. Take your favourite charity: Would you be ok if, after years of service, it got privatized and made a fortune?