Is Couchsurfing a Sinking Ship?

What the hell happened to Couchsurfing these days? Really... 🙁

failing couchsurfing by lord jim Photo by Lord Jim

Just a few years ago it was so easy to couchsurf, I would never usually need to send more than 3 or 4 requests to find a good host, even with just two or three days notice. But lately, every trip I take it seems to get harder and harder! And on my most recent trip it took me more than 20 requests just to find 1 couch in South East Europe! Many of which were carefully chosen and personally written! And that was in Bulgaria, in big cities like London, Amsterdam, Rome, etc. I hear of people sending 50 requests and not getting accepted.

The problems all seemed to start about a year ago. In the beginning Couchsurfing was started by volunteers as a nonprofit organization, where people liked to help each other, build communities and friendships. However as it grew some of the people behind it became corrupt and greedy, and believed Couchsurfing should be turned into a company. This lead to many of the original volunteers leaving the project to start bewelcome.org as well as many of the older and more active members leaving the site or becoming less active.

Despite many many protests by practically all of it's experienced members it continued to become more and more commercial. Even advertising to force growth and fill up the system with new members who did not really understand or respect the concept behind Couchsurfing, instead of growing slowly and naturally through word of mouth as it had done for many years.

So why is it becoming so difficult to find a couch, or even to meet people these days?

In my opinion it comes down to this forced growth through media coverage and advertising.

When Couchsurfing grows naturally, through word of mouth, through small blogs and so on it stays within the same type of people. The people who enjoy travelling, who enjoy helping others and sharing experiences. I have invited 100s of people to join Couchsurfing over the last few years but I only invite the people I think really belong in the community. And this is how it is meant to be.

But when Couchsurfing is publicly promoted there is no such filter and everyone is free to join. People who see Couchsurfing as a way to find free accommodation, or worse, people who use it as a dating site. The balance of good members vs. bad tipped and this caused even more of the good members to lose interest in the site.

This brings me to another topic: Couchsurfing IS NOT A DATING SITE! I remember when I first joined, I couldn't go a day without hearing this phrase at least once! It was actually quite repetitive and annoying it was being used so often. But now I understand why. I don't hear this any more, and of course the new members have joined not hearing this or caring about this very important RULE in Couchsurfing.

Nowadays female members get constantly spammed from all directions, especially in certain countries. I met one girl who posted on a city group to meet up and received around 40 messages just from guys! Even if they don't post publicly they still receive messages. What image of Couchsurfing do you think this creates for them?

So of course they very quickly become scared to be a part of this now very sleazy community. So again, the balance tips, female members don't wish to host or be apart of the community, and the few who do get even more messages and soon we are left with a site full of horny guys... It doesn't matter if you are single or married with kids; who wants to join a meeting with ONLY guys who all go there just for the chance to hook up with the few girls who were brave enough to come.

Basically all the good members are leaving, and being replaced by people who have no idea what Couchsurfing is meant to be.

Because of this most hosts in big cities receive dozens of requests each week and of course can not host all of them, or even check their profiles and reply to them. Many members make their couch unavailable because of this, which then makes it even more difficult to host, more requests need to be sent, and so the snowball continues to grow.

I must make a disclaimer here: Couchsurfing is of course different in every country and city around the world. What I have said so far is mostly based on countries in Europe and from what I've heard The Middle East and United states. Right now I am in Brazil where the community is still strong and pure, however if Couchsurfing continues the way it is South America may be the next place to join this list.

So I want to ask all of you who have read this far, what should we do about this? And, what should Couchsurfing do about this?

In my opinion the best thing we can do is "Be the change you wish to see"; Of course we must try to be better members, remember Couchsurfing is also about helping each other as well as meeting people and having fun, and definitely not just about meeting people of the opposite sex.

Try to host when we can, because if we all host more, it will be easier for YOU to find a couch also when you are travelling yourself. We must also try to protect the communities that are the glue that holds Couchsurfing together, and teach the new members what it means to be a couchsurfer.

Of course we also have to hope that Couchsurfing will finally realize their mistakes and will be able to work to repair some of the damage that has been done. A few weeks ago the CEO who was responsible for many of these mistakes stepped down, so with a new person at the wheel maybe we can steer Couchsurfing back towards what it once was.

What is your opinion on this? What can we do to save Couchsurfing? And what should Couchsurfing do to fix it's recent mistakes?

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47 comments on “Is Couchsurfing a Sinking Ship?
  1. Natália says:

    Great text. I´m new in CS, next week I´m gonna surf for the first time, and I have to confess that I was afraid to send requests for men, because they can confuse things and thinking that I wanted a date, when in fact I just want a couch to sleep and good conversations with locals. And it´s also strange that CS culture is relatively new in Brazil, while is a kind of “Sinking Ship” (using your expression) in Europe… I do hope new members can learn well what means to be a couchsurfer…

  2. Guri Singh says:

    Hi,

    a well written article. I have been a CSer since 2007, have had an amazing time meeting and making lifelong friends on CS. The reasons you point out will be the downfall of what was CS.

    I believe the management and investors don’t care about the CS spirit, they only want to capitalize it.

    Casey mentioned that Facebook has 1 billion members and he wishes that almost everyone can be a CSer. The problem is that not everyone has the spirit and the desire to host and be hosted.

    What was a wonderful site with an organic growth rate of 2-5% is now a pile of junk messages and honestly trolls looking for sex.

    I have been hosted 2 dozen times and have hosted about the same amount of times. Most of my Hosts have come over and been a guest of mine.

    I will NOT host any newbie, sorry.
    I will NOT host anyone who has not hosted at least 5-10 CSers.

    I am glad that CS existed for now I am richer with friends that live around the world. Sadly, the same CS has now become something else. Yes, they gained 5 million new CSers but sadly most are not even a CSer.

    The damage is too deep, there is no way to salvage the site. Most CSers from my group have left and hardly even log in.
    The only solution is for groups to start their own hosting groups or a new website.

    Casey Fenton – You sold out. I wish you had not done this to your baby.

    PS. I think CS is the perfect dating site, you meet like minded people with a profile that has references galore. I have not dated anyone from CS but have had a few minor crushes that remain so.

    • Guri Singh says:

      I want to clarify, that one should not go into CS looking for a date but it is quite clear that some folks (real CSers) on there are amazing.

    • I have had 100s of guests via Couchsurfing. I was hosted by dozens of people all over the world. Male and female, even though I have my preference.

      You know something people? You make me sick by repeating that this is not a dating site, in CAPS!! This drives people AWAY!!! The way you say it, over and over and over again, it makes people sick that if they dare make a compliment they will have the cops in their house!! Leave users alone!! If they want to date THEY WILL! yeah yeah, this is not the purpose of it, you will say. SO WHAT? STOP SAYING THIS! Who cares how 2 people meet! If both people are attracted to each other they will do whatever they want. We all date surfers and hosts if we want and they want and the timing is right. Some even got married! SO, STOP THIS Hypocricy that scares people away from CS!!!

      I am not accepting requests not because there are bad people in the system (these are everywhere) but because YOU PEOPLE SCARE US that we will get in trouble if we make a compliment to our guest by keep telling them this is not a dating site. BS! STOP the BS! The system will clean the bad users away. Your foolish analysis drives good people away too!

      • Lily says:

        Hi fellow Couchsurfer,

        I think you get it wrong.

        Repeating over and over that it is not a dating site, even if it’s annoying it is necessary.

        Not to prevent people who are attracted to each other to get together, people do what they want and it is written nowhere that you cannot do whatever you want with your body.

        But it is necessary to let know some people who are or too blind or too ignorant or too rude, that this is not a place to start flirting with a perfect stranger and girls are not “open”.

        I registered to CS Bali when I moved there, not to host or find a host but to meet people to do activities.
        I met some cool people, but to be honest, I learnt later that many guys who sent request to the few host as a negative answer, the host saying clearly that he host only bule (white) girls.

        All the girls I met who have been hosted, had probleme with the host who turn jealous and possessive.

        I myself stopped reading messages, 90% of them being “hey darling, I’m in Bali, wanna meet?”

        Don’t people know how to present themselves anymore? Yes I want to meet people, but I’m not desperate to the point to meet someone who don’t even take the time to write 10 lines to present himself and see if we at least have something in common to become friends.

        I end up posting on the forum to meet people listing the activites and places I like. I specified that I wanted only to meet girls as I was tired to waste to meet guys who only tried to get laid and never call back when they realise they’ll be stuck in friend zone.

        I got 3PM from girls (cool chicks btw), 30 replies of boring men.
        I always had to reply why the guy cannot call me “darling” and explain to him how inappropriate it is.

        I didn’t sign up to couchsurfing to play mum and educate horny guys. But too meet people, at the end it is too much work to filter regarding the result. So I just don’t go anymore.

        There are chances that I miss the opportunity to meet good guys, but from my experience, it’s 90% BS and I have no time to waste for such a ratio.

        What is written in the article is true. There is no sense of community, only people looking for easy dates and backpackers looking for a free accomodation like a service, without the spirit.

        Epic fail.

        CS is not a datin site and it has to be said and repeated, not to prevent that happen if it has to happen, but for newcomers decide to sign for the good reasons.

        • Dear Lily,

          You wasted so many paragraphs to tell us that the method of turning away horny people has failed.

          That’s what it was said before. Stop saying what this CS site is not for and say what it is for.

          Do you see it? Agree now?
          Keep repeating what is prohibited and the bad kids will for sure get attracted to the challenge. And the rest (us) will look away so that we dont get misunderstood by the scared CSers.
          Now, I would never call you “Darling” even if I slept with you 🙂

          • Lily says:

            Dear friend of mine,

            It is your lecture if you think I wasted paragraphs (which is actually not correct to say, I guess you were looking for the word “time” but you might have been distracted by the effort of trying to sound smart) since I’m the one writing them, then it’s my time and it is to my own appreciation.

            These paragraphs you might be TL;DR for you are a testimony of what a woman can experience each time she logs on the website, driving them inevitably away.
            Online service 101: know and understand your audience’s experience.

            You said: “Stop saying what this CS site is not for and say what it is for.”

            The name is : “couchsurfing”
            The description is : “Travel the world, explore your city and host new friends. Couchsurfing is the world’s largest travel community.”

            I might be wrong, but it does seems pretty clear. Keywords: “travel, explore, host, friends, community”
            Obviously saying what it is for is not enough, and saying what is not for might help some people to have a clear idea of the concept.
            Online service 102: define your target audience

            – Do you see it ???

            You said: “Keep repeating what is prohibited and the bad kids will for sure get attracted to the challenge”

            Because it is so proved that rules bring chaos. Clichés are not valid arguments.

            You said: “Now, I would never call you “Darling” even if I slept with you”

            Oh great, I’m so relieved about that and will keep it in mind next time a guy “darling or babe” me because it is so related.
            Thx you just fixed the problem.

            You sure didn’t “waste” much paragraphs, but it wasn’t a reason to be so not constructive.

      • Dan Norris says:

        I’m sorry but I am failing to understand much of your comment. I do not see how reminding people the rule which couchsurfing was created with (please see rule no. 4 of the official couchsurfing rules https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/guidelines) is scaring anyone away, unfortunately it does not even scare away the people that it should. It is actually people who use the community for dating which scare people away. I have met many many girls who have quit using couchsurfing because of sleazy messages or bad experiences with the opposite sex, I even met one girl who got scared out of a city because she received so many creepy couchsurfing messages when she arrived there…

        Another point, I never said it is wrong to hook up with people you meet through couchsurfing, I actually ended up married to one of my hosts and now we travel together, but I did not send her a request with any intention of that. What is wrong is using couchsurfing with that intention of hooking up. It is wrong, it is against the rules, and it damages the community.

    • CSfer says:

      My only comment to this is that pledging not to host “newbies” or people who have not hosted 5-10 times, you might be depriving a community of people who might be new to CS and may have the qualities that are praised here. It might become difficult to filter those who you might think are worth meeting, but the spirit of CS was never meant to become exclusive.

  3. Colette in cork says:

    I have been a member of couchsurfing for almost four years. I have surfed and hosted and have been extremely lucky it seems to have only met kind, friendly, decent men and women. I have had a very good experience. No hint of sleaze.

  4. Zdenko says:

    It is sad, very sad that what was a great idea and chance to meet interesting, open-minded people all over the world is changing to business.

  5. Emily says:

    I have been a CS member since 2006 and yes, some of the best travel experiences I’ve had have been made through the site. Unfortunately, you are right, that CS is certainly on the way out, a lot because of mainstream media, but I feel a lot more because of finances. New websites like Airbnb and Wimdu that offer essentially the exact same experiences (staying in a local’s home, getting a local’s take on your destination), but offer money to hosts have really taken over. I live in San Francisco, where rent is astronomical, and as much as I’d love to host couchsurfers, the prospect of getting $50-$70 a night from a person staying at my house is a lot more enticing than nothing. You mention that lack of places to stay is the case in London and other large cities, and I believe they are dealing with the same thing. Worse for travelers on a budget, but much better for hosts, who are what supports the system functioning at all.

  6. Anna says:

    I became a member i 2007 and for the first couple of years I had some great experiences. I made good friends that I still see today. I know it sounds cliché but I thought of it as a way of getting to know people and share culture. I hosted, surfed and met up with people. Almost everyone I met seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me and my city.

    A few years ago, when Couchsurfing grew larger I started getting lots of shady e-mails from guys all over the world, traveling or not. I got a large amount of surf requests from people who had obviously not even bothered to read my profile. I kept hosting for a while and had some good and some bad experiences. Some were good some were not. If I offered to host for only a few days, some people kept asking to stay longer, acting as if I was some sort of hotel. When turning requests down I got some rude replies. Some people expected to be given food as well as a place to stay. Some guys expected to hook up… Stuff like that. So, I stopped hosting but kept meeting people and going to meetings. Gradually I became less active.

    I did really enjoy Couchsurfing as it was in the beginning but all the spam and some bad behaviour made me tired of it.

  7. Sony says:

    Very well said. I agree with all that you have said. The true Couchsurfing spirit has been tarred and transformed into a new species of community now. That doesn’t mean the natives have left, it just means they are harder to find in a diluted population.

    Also, congrats on the site, it is great.

  8. FIlipe says:

    I think there is still a chance to make CS better, specially the website and mobile application. The worst thing that was done was to ruin CS groups, it changed for much worse! Other than that, I think the site has improved, and despite the rumours of going commercial, I don’t see yet people taking advantage of CS for money, not even advertisement on the site, so I believe it can still retain the old spirit!
    However, I think it’s only natural that as the number of members increases exponencially, also the number of members without CS spirit and even with not so good intentions, will increase. (so it is naturally harder to find a host if many people are members but don’t care about it!). It is up to the true CSers to censor the bad behaviours and continue to give the example! Also, for old but also new members, you need to filter a lot better who you host and who you surf with , if you don’t want to have a not so good experience! The truth is, it has always been harder for guys to find a host, and girls most always prefer to be hosted by other girls as it feels safer for them, so I don’t think that has changed. It has just grown a lot.
    To end, I just would like to leave something I heard from a guy, which shows how people can always interpret things according to their intentions!

    “Couchsurfing is not a dating site! It is THE dating site!”

    haha, I actually found it funny… but only as a joke.

    take care

    • I have had 100s of guests via Couchsurfing. I was hosted by dozens of people all over the world. Male and female, even though I have my preference.

      You know something people? You make me sick by repeating that this is not a dating site, in CAPS!! This drives people AWAY!!! The way you say it, over and over and over again, it makes people sick that if they dare make a compliment they will have the cops in their house!! Leave users alone!! If they want to date THEY WILL! yeah yeah, this is not the purpose of it, you will say. SO WHAT? STOP SAYING THIS! Who cares how 2 people meet! If both people are attracted to each other they will do whatever they want. We all date surfers and hosts if we want and they want and the timing is right. Some even got married! SO, STOP THIS Hypocricy that scares people away from CS!!!

      I am not accepting requests not because there are bad people in the system (these are everywhere) but because YOU PEOPLE SCARE US that we will get in trouble if we make a compliment to our guest by keep telling them this is not a dating site. BS! STOP the BS! The system will clean the bad users away. Your foolish analysis drives good people away too!

  9. DD says:

    I became a member of Hospitalityclub about 11 years ago.
    Then in 2007 the activity shifted towards Couchsurfing – and meanwhile HC is more or less inactive.
    Within the last year a lot of really dedicated CSsers moved on to the purely volunteer-run BeWelcome which became – also due to this migration and the bigger member base of now 50.000 (sic!) – a viable alternative.
    I guess most of these formerly active Couchsurfers just gave up on trying to change a network from inside. Instead of trying to revive a dead horse they just take a fresh one and ride it…

  10. Tylle says:

    With all the changes made to the CS page it is harder to find likeminded people. I’ve became more lazy and look usually for places to rent but miss the real connection of real CS people. Looking forward getting good requests (a rare thing these days) and meeting the previous CSs, now a days dear friends over and over again.

  11. A Couchsurfer says:

    Many people from Couchsurfing are very racist again us Asian while they travel to Asia very often. They would rather stick together in a white group than get to know our culture and people. I find it is difficult to get along with female CSs because they do not seem to be interested in making friend with an Asian girl and they hardly response to my request to meet up or join them as a travel buddy. Meanwhile, men always wanted to meet me for a purpose: Sex. I have lost my interest in meeting people from here for a long time. I was a quite active member in the beginning, until I have found out there is a barrier between Western people and Asian people. I do not know if other female CSs used to have bad experiences with male CSs like I did. Yes, I met about 20, and up to 18 of them wanted to abuse me, only 2 are really nice.

    • anii86 says:

      Hey A Couchsurfer, I wouldn’t agree that it’s all about your ethnicity. I (and maaany European girls too) also receive many such requests from guys. I think it has nothing to do with race, place of origin, looks or language spoken – CS has been become such a dating site (or, as a matter of fact not necessarily the CS site but CS in general) that the only thing that matters is..sex. Lol.
      We can laugh of it but it is the sad truth. CS is no longer what it used to be. One cannot use the term “CS spirit” as it got lost in the meantime – together with the true soul of CSing.. There is no voluntary “service” anymore, no helping others with no benefits, no hospitality and no neighbourly help..

  12. Michele says:

    I love couchsurfing but it is only as good as its members. Some people start travelling without even looking at it otherthan thinking a free bed, we have hosted over 100 times and often spend it educating people about how it works. I encourage people to stay involved even if they cant host.l, meet up for coffee and show people around. Most of all guve references so we can weed the bad apples out and be honest. We are headig off travelling and hope we get to surf as we go we see the benefits of hosting and surfing so want it to continue.

  13. Zoe says:

    I agree with the article too. Well-written. CS has consistently been advertised as a “free place to stay” instead of balancing it out with the benefits for the host. I have been lucky to have great surfers but a lot has to do with my age (69) in Oaxaca but I also screen profiles well.

  14. Yogi says:

    I’ve been involved in couchsurfing almost three years now, but mainly active since a bit over a year. Even in that year I noticed a major shift in quality of couch requests, how surfers coming to our city use the website in general and the crowd that I see at meetings. I’ve heard guys mention that they consider their time wasted if they can’t get a girl’s phone number during the event.

    In general I still feel lucky that our city is still doing reasonably good. Members that host still value personalized requests a lot and people asking for couches in the conversations section are either ignored or ‘educated’ on how to use the website. Myself, I’ve added some sort of password in my profile to make sure surfers took the time to read up on me and it has helped to reduce my bad experiences.

    But yes: CouchSurfing opened up the website to anyone by offering the sign-up with Facebook and this has done a lot of damage that will take time to heal. Also launching new parts of the website before they’re properly tested, which has been done several times, has scared off many good members to BeWelcome (yet, this website is hardly used in North America as it seems).

    In some groups there are discussions going on about how to get CouchSurfing back into the hands of the community, but without any action happening. For now I really don’t see anything improving, either on the community’s initiative or in the attitude from the board or the management in San Francisco. The community itself is too scattered out in opinions on how to proceed: some members want to keep on fighting by keeping on hosting, surfing, organizing events and educating people on what CS really is, while others condemn using the website further as it will only add to the value (financial that is) of the company.

  15. anii86 says:

    A great and well-thought article.
    For me the main drawback of CS nowadays is that the site is totally not user-friendly (XXI century and a mobile app is not compatible with most android phones?!!), that both the site and CS in general have become a dating (hot) spot and that CSers got..lazy..
    Yes, lazy (or busy – here it’s the same). People have no time and/or no stamina enough to reply to messages, to meet up personally, to come to meetings, to invite people in or, as simple as that, to fill in their profiles. That’s why the quality of requests, acquaintances/friendships, meetings and people diminishes..
    People, wake up. You’re losing something important here.. 🙁

  16. Paula says:

    I am new to CS and I have received crazy amount of requests but I am afraid to host. You have people coming from all around the world and you have no idea who they are. I think It should be a more restricted way to do a background check or something like that.

  17. this comment thing is now working ?

  18. I have had 100s of guests via Couchsurfing. I was hosted by dozens of people all over the world. Male and female, even though I have my preference.

    You know something people? You make me sick by repeating that this is not a dating site, in CAPS!! This drives people AWAY!!! The way you say it, over and over and over again, it makes people sick that if they dare make a compliment they will have the cops in their house!! Leave users alone!! If they want to date THEY WILL! yeah yeah, this is not the purpose of it, you will say. SO WHAT? STOP SAYING THIS! Who cares how 2 people meet! If both people are attracted to each other they will do whatever they want. We all date surfers and hosts if we want and they want and the timing is right. Some even got married! SO, STOP THIS Hypocricy that scares people away from CS!!!

    I am not accepting requests not because there are bad people in the system (these are everywhere) but because YOU PEOPLE SCARE US that we will get in trouble if we make a compliment to our guest by keep telling them this is not a dating site. BS! STOP the BS! The system will clean the bad users away. Your foolish analysis drives good people away too!

  19. chris says:

    There should be a counter for hosting and surfing and many problems would be solved, also the gender problem.

  20. Ronnie says:

    Hey Dan, I remember meeting you in Manila some ages ago 🙂 Anyway, to answer your question, maybe I can offer you a paradox: The more the site has been opened on a general level, the more closed it has become on a personal level. We accept more people into the system, but not into our homes.

  21. Eszter says:

    Hey!

    I am quite new in the couchsurfing community, I only joined in spring, 2013. I have already hosted more then 12 people, and once I have tried surfing as well. I don’t know how it was before but I am a girl, and I get more then 5 requests from man daily. When I read their requests and see their pictures, it is obvious that they are some creepy guys looking for sex. It is quite easy to recogniese it. And when I get a request from a person with real CS spirit, it is so easy to see the difference. So I think there is nothing wrong with the couchsurfing community, you just have to be careful. If you see a complete profile, with some pictures and with reviews, sometimes the facebook page as well, after this you can obviously dicide if you want to host this person or not.
    I have never had any negative experiences, all the people I hosted were really nice, with the real couchsurfing spirit.

  22. Hey every one! 🙂

    The Thing what I suggest is to make an option to report anonymous about people who don’t really get the idea of CS and make an option lets say to publish his report at the time when he/she wants.

    Example:

    Report:
    Date written (hidden): 14/12/13

    Message to others: This host want’s to date single woman and was horny during my stay. And his mate is travel agent who tried to sell me tours around the city and book me in to …

    Date to publish (Chosen by author so that the host wont be able to figure out who left this message in case he want’s to leave negative reference just because host wants to do it because of report, but actually there was no reason for that)

    Those fake negative references can damage good user profile quite a lot, so that is one of reasons why we haven’t left maybe 3 reports for hosts who had to get them.

    The other thing is – there has to be an option to block the user so that he can’t leave or change his original reference (for that surfer who did report) if there is a report about him.

    If this would be an option then it would be great.
    I did pay to get Verified but to be honest I don’t see a real use for that if I can’t change my address after I change my address and I still have difficulty with few hosts.

    Most important part is:

    Verified members should be able to filter users with hidden reports or suspicious profiles.
    Users who have hidden reports about them should be separated from users who has couchsurfer spirit in them. They Can stay in the site but get requests only from users who have reports as well.

    Make CS SMARTER!!!!

    I did put quite an effort in this suggestion and because english is not my first language, If someone wants to do something to change CS website to better one and you don’t understand what I meant then please contact me and I will explain!

    Have a great day!

    CS’er

    • Dan Norris says:

      There actually is an option to anonymously report people for dating related issues, unfortunately the couchsurfing team don't seem to pay any attention to these reports. But yes, this would be a huge step forward in removing some of the bad users and preventing people from breaking the rules.

  23. Dan Norris says:

    I just want to say to everyone who believes couchsurfing is beyond repair and we should just give us that I strongly disagree with that. I am not an idiot, it can obviously never be what it once was, but the damage can most definitely be reduced and I believe even somewhat repaired. BUT for this to happen we all need to start following and enforcing the rules, and teaching the new members what it means to be a couchsurfer.

  24. wing says:

    I think it is how one takes an approach to CS. Yes, there are more users but not necessary more host. I’m guilty of it, because I stay in my parent’s place and they don’t like it when strangers come to my house, so I have to stop hosting. But the few times when I was surfing and hosting, I have a very good time. However, I did not exactly participate in the event as not too many of them interest me. I think as with everything in life, one has to be discerning. Overall, I think CS is still a good platform for travellers to connect.

    I believe the shift in the culture of CS is not entirely due to the fact of selling the website off. The culture is also created by the people participating in it. It’s like capitalism, people blame a lot of things on it. Yes, it does have its flaw, but essentially if one is to use capitalism to create more good, that is to engage in social enterprise and to be more careful in where they put their dollars in (supporting true green business), some things would be different. Though I wouldn’t be so fast to say capitalism is entirely “pure”.

    At the end of the day, sometimes we really have to lean towards the issue of sustainability. and just because CS become for-profit, it shouldn’t alter the users mentality drastically. People are just the way people are. a gun does not have the capacity by itself to be evil, the notion of evil lies very much in the person holding the gun.

  25. Jerry says:

    Hi everyone,

    I am a senior web developer with more than 10 years experience, I also love travel so much, backpacked in Australia for around a year, participate CS, like to meet people from all over around the world, met many CSers and showed them around in my home country.

    I have read this article, also read all the comments above.

    Most of comments are focus on how worse the CS community is nowadays, girls got too many messages from creepy and horny guys, more and more people who don’t have CS spirit joined the community and make the CS down.

    I think these are all can be done by a good system design, good algorithm. Not 100% perfect, but can significantly improve the CS.

    But I want to talk another topic, sustainability and capitalism.

    I really can understand why CS want to become a profit company, and accept findings. Please look this article the Facebook part

    http://thenextweb.com/dd/2013/12/02/much-cost-build-worlds-hottest-startups/#!q75Gp

    “Taking into account the difference in storage costs in 2002, Schippers estimates that Zuckerberg was spending $3,000 per month on hosting for the first year and about $10 million per month by 2006 as the network grew exponentially in that time period.”

    OK, Facebook have to pay “at least” $3,000USD per month for their first year, and that is just for hosting(bandwidth and servers).

    And this is how much Facebook costs now http://www.datacenterdynamics.com/blogs/penny-jones/how-much-does-facebook-spend-data-centers

    According to the data on Wikipedia about couchsurfing.com:

    “As of January 2012, the website had 3.6 million members.”

    I don’t think the first year Facebook already has 3.6 million members. Yes, CS is way much smaller than Facebook now, but 3.6 million members is not a small number. Do you think how much costs CS have to pay JUST FOR servers and bandwidth(even all the team members are volunteers, there will be extra expense like office rent etc…)? You can easily get result by calculation from those articles I posted above.

    The verification fee or denotation is nothing, they are very tiny money, and like one time fee, cannot cover the expense.

    So, who pays the bill? Me? You? Or you? Or You? Or those volunteers(you think they already put their time and effort on the site, but also have to put all the money from their wallet?)? We all want a better service but we all don’t want to pay money and don’t want CS to make money? This doesn’t make sense, so there must be someone pay the bills? Who? (And the one must be very rich to support a non profit)

    I know BeWelcome.org is non profit, all volunteers. I don’t know who pay the money, but it is still slow, old style web site and not easy to use, once it has 3.6 million members may crash often like CS today.

    And look the profit company AirBnB? see the differences?

    If CS is a profit company, then they can hire more high skill professionals, pay better infrastructure. Then people will have a stable, good, ease of use platform, even good system design to filter the bad intention people and spams.

    Think about it.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Hey Jerry, thanks for your reply. Btw, it wasn’t deleted it just hadn’t been approved yet 😉

      I totally agree with you about your first point, it would be so easy for CS to implement some software to stop people messaging only girls, and reward people who host then couchsurfing would improve a lot! Unfortunately no matter how much people shout at them they still seem to do nothing 🙁

      About the financial situation, this is a whoooole other topic, but yes they do need to commercialize in order to support the website, but they all they have done is spend their money on advertising, increasing their members and then spending more to support these new members. I would be very happy if CS took some sponsors and used the money to improve the system, but what they are doing is bad business and bad for CS. It’s no wonder the last CEO had to step down.

  26. It’s true CS is changing, many of the top of shied away due to the change. But still people are joining, people are learning and the culture is still there. Honestly, we do need something better, a Facebook for travelers, nomads, couch surfers, and adventurers. But for now, CS and a few similar yet smaller sites are all we have.

  27. Alda says:

    Couchsurfing is still great but there is 10% men being a problem on the site. In Dubai for example, if a woman is raped, she would be jailed for this. It is like in Pakistan where 80% of the women jailed are jailed because having being raped. The same law applies. Every time I try nicely to inform women about this, as I surfed not knowing, and took stupid risks, the men on the site, mostly from Pakistan, always delete my comments. And the thing is the safety team seems to always be on their side, saying no women rights activism. In fact it was so obvious the last letter I received from the safety team from a certain Caytee, that I started to have doubt about this Caytee being a woman and being based in United States. As we all know a lot of companies locate their on line services in India. And in India, a lot of workers are from Pakistan as well. So I thought but would it be possible Caytee would be a Pakistanese man, based in India? And if yes, so is it legal from Couchsurfing to pretend to have a safety team run by women in United States when it is in fact men based in India? Which would explain the lack of banner and information in Dubai and the will to not inform women about their rights.

  28. Alda says:

    The safety team might be located in India and when you think you are talking with an American woman, you in fact talk with a guy. It could explain the safety team policy lately.

  29. Robert says:

    First, reality check.

    Girls want romance too.
    For romance to happen, both gender is needed.
    (if romance is such a problem as some people say)

    Second, solution.

    For girls who don’t want possibility of romance,
    they can just host/surf with other girls.
    (they don’t need to complain)

    • Dan Norris says:

      If “people” want romance, use a dating site, here is a list to help you find some: http://dating.about.com/od/sitereviews/tp/OnlineSites.htm

      There are several very good reasons using couchsurfing as a dating site is against it’s rules; safety being the main one, but also to not turn CS into a sleazy pick up site which no one wants to use anymore.

      • Piglet44 says:

        Totally agree with everything you said.Once it became a company they changed the interface on the website,made it all glossy glossy pictures,and changed the way the forums work.It was impossible to find discussions on the forums and impossible to search as we had done before.Added to that nobody responded to veteran members’ complaints to change it back how it was before.It is very frustrating.It used to be a great tool and now it is just like lots of other sites and has “lost its soul”.However as you say,members should continue to maintain the couchsurfing spirit and try to get themselves heard.Yesterday I attended a veggie dinner of fellow surfers at a restaurant here in Xiamen,China.Over 25 people turned up and we had a great time. I only hope it will not get ruined,and most of all that people will continue to be able to travel and be hosted safely! Thanks for your article.

  30. Marvie says:

    Do people really expect to stay at another person’s place for free and for nothing to happen. While there pay be those good people out there who offer their place for free, honestly what is it that people expect. Instead of paying for a hotel or guesthouse, they stay for free at someone’s room. You have to say it is a bit dodgy at best. I had a request from a Russian guy who appeared to be homeless, and could not afford public transport. He wanted to know where I lived, my address, what time I would be home and wanted to stay for a month. Really.. like F…. I thought… I am supposed to give all that. If this was used to be a possible hookup site I might be keen but all that..?? They expect all of that. And then of course women can stay with other women. What does the hoster get, one has to wonder. And I would never ever host a man. Go and get a room man – a hotel or guest house. If you don’t like I, then so be it and to hell with what CS thinks. They make the money and you host the CS. It appears that CSfind is a good place to meet people. I met 2 women in Siem Reap who did it and met up and great. Ne was cute as hell and she wanted to know if she could see me in Bangkok. Sure I said, when she later told me she was travelling with her male friend, well that made all the difference. Is this what the younger generation expect? Maybe they have forgotten what a tour guide and travel guide does.

    • Dan Norris says:

      Wow, this message really saddens me to read… First of all the fact that people like you exist, but mostly that you really seem to believe that people don’t do anything in this life without expecting anything in return.

      Just yesterday I hitchhiked in Colombia and was helped by many people who expected nothing in return at all. One driver stopped to treat us to some fresh pineapple, and another driver changed his route to help us find the address of our host, who is now hosting us without expecting anything in return.

      If you really think people like this don’t exist you obviously haven’t travelled enough.

  31. Kate says:

    Couchsurfing safety team and support team have been outsourced to Concentrix, Belfast, maybe India too. So yes it is dangerous for the women’s safety if it has been outsourced in countries where women’s rights are an issue, and if Caytee is a man and not a woman.

  32. Paulo says:

    The problem is that when CS went commercial – they advertised everywhere and it became popular with the throw-away social networking youth – most of whom have no idea about the original CS and the spirit of real travellers.
    Now the site is over-populated with the “Facebook crowd” – people with empty profiles and particularly ‘attractive’ females – often with only 1 photo and zero information.

    I’ve seen many times that a seasoned CS traveller with lots of references get zero response to an open CS request whilst one of these empty profiles with an attractive Eastern European (or other) girl receives god knows how many offers (it only displays 3+ on the site).

    CS is basically dead. It peaked several years ago and now is declining further. You will always find good people there and even on new profiles……….but it’s not what it was.

    As for bewelcome………well I heard that everyone was supposed to move over there as some kind of protest against the corporate CS. But I’ve tried to use bewelcome and there are hardly any users – so it’s almost impossible to find hosts. That site needs a kick up the butt.

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