Collaborative consumption is the term for all the new ways of sharing and trading that have emerged through the internet. It’s a growing phenomenon, using online networks to facilitate peer to peer businesses. There’s a huge range of projects, some of them famous, some of them more esoteric. The best way to understand collaborative consumption is see some examples, so out of the hundreds of possible things to mention, here are ten.
1. Ebay – the mother of peer to peer trading sites, what Ebay has done is create an easy to use platform that allows people to buy and sell pretty much anything. It’s a powerful tool, and has given opportunities to all kinds of cottage industries. My wife and I got a secondhand kitchen off Ebay. My sister even got a wedding dress.
2. Whipcar – a peer to peer car rental scheme that allows you to rent your neighbour’s car. You can search the area near you and see all the cars available, and choose one that suits your journey. And of course you can rent out your car too, if you don’t use it all the time, and help to cover the cost of running it.
3. Streetbank – Enter a few items you’d be willing to lend, give away, or some skills you could share, and you can then browse all the other items and skills available to you in your area. It’s a simple, community-building website, in which things are swapped and shared out of neighbourly friendliness rather than for profit.
4. Liftshare – Going somewhere? Log your journey, and the chances are someone else is going the same way. From long journeys to daily commutes, Liftshare cuts carbon and keeps cars off the roads by getting people traveling together and sharing the cost. It’s been especially useful for getting fans to car share journeys to sports or music events, with some artists and event organisers actively encouraging fans to use the site.
5. Byke.mobi – If you’re traveling and want to see the sights by bike, this website will hook you up with a local bike owner who’s not using theirs right now. The website holds a deposit, so you can let your own bike out without risk, and make a little money from visitors and tourists.
6. Erento – You know that motorhome you only use twice a year? Someone else could be using it in-between and helping you to pay for it, and Erento is how you can find each other. Or someone who can use your tools, your trailer, wallpaper steamer or tent.
7. Greenmetropolis.com – there are lots of book swapping or book retailing sites, but this is my favourite and where I sell my unwanted books. You can browse the catalogue and buy anything that takes your fancy, but rather than it come from a warehouse somewhere, it’ll be posted to you by another user.
8. Swishing – how to get new clothes and accessories for your wardrobe without spending any money, Swishing allows people to register clothes-swapping events all around the country. It’s become quite a big thing in women’s fashion, though I’m not aware of a menswear equivalent, strangely enough.
9. Zopa.com – A peer to peer lending platform that matches lenders with borrowers, allowing both to choose the rate at which they borrow, the amount and the time frame. It’s a great way to get a small loan at better rates than the bank, or to put your savings to good use if you’ve got a little surplus you could make available to someone else.
10. Airbnb – a “community marketplace for unique spaces”, Airbnb allows ordinary people to make their spare room available as short-term accommodation to travelers. Sometimes its a room, but flats, sheds, car parking spaces and even castles are available to book. 1,200 people stay in Airbnb accommodation in London every night.
There are hundreds of sites I could mention here, this is just a tiny flavour of the huge informal sector trading that the internet has made possible. For more, see collaborativeconsumption.com