For this week’s post I would like to focus on the discussion of online communities, a topic which I found myself drawing back upon for nearly every topic we discussed in the following weeks. From the space known as The Well, widely considered the earliest onset of community within the internet, to the modern forms of online communities we have today, the internet has always relied upon internet users coming together to create a space for themselves and each other.
I have noticed an increase in the development of many internet communities as of late. However one type of community which I have noticed to be growing is the travel community. All over the internet, websites which allow people to rate, book, and discuss travel products and services are quickly becoming booming communities with millions of members and contributors; notably, well known sites such as TripAdvisor, and the relatively new but rapidly expanding AirBnB.
Even before TripAdvisor’s inception in 2000, internet users have been referring to the online community in order to receive travel advice. This community has grown to become the most relied upon travel website on the internet, which is discussed in one of my passed blogs. People refer to the community to get advice and give advice about their own travel experiences, with full trust in the words of the strangers who are advising them.
AirBnB, however, has taken the trusting online travel community to a whole new level. Through AirBnB, online users offer their homes, and private rooms inside the homes they reside, for people to stay in as they travel. The site was revered as a strange and possibly dangerous idea at first, however the site now has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries, according to Wikipedia. Users of the site can review the places which they have stayed in, remarking on the cleanliness of the home, location in relation to the major sites within the city, and reliability of the homeowner.
This unique online community is considered by many to be revolutionizing the way we travel. However, I believe it also reflects upon the amount of trust people place in the members of their communities within the internet. Enough so to enter the home of someone they have never met in real life, relying on the recommendation of people they have never met in real life, and rely on the hospitality of that person while travel. This also applies to the home owners, who invite people they have never met to stay inside their home, which they may currently be living in, and trust that they will not harm them or their home.
They travel community on the internet, hosted through popular sites such as TripAdvisor and AirBnB, is one of the best examples of trust that internet users place within the relative strangers, or fellow members of their online communities.
AirBnB relies heavily upon themes of community and trust in their advertisements, often using the hashtag, #OneLessStranger: