“The sharing economy has not finished learning the economy”

Chronic. Before, things were a little more complicated. you had to stand on the side of the road with your thumbs up to find a friendly driver, spend hours reading ads to stay with locals, or place an ad at the baker to offer her services. The result was often random. And then the Internet industrialized the economy of resourcefulness. With Airbnb, Blablacar, Uber or Leboncoin, connecting individuals has become as easy as sliding your thumb on the screen of a smartphone. You can find a trip to Bordeaux in five minutes, a room in Venice in a few clicks.

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By the way, we have also industrialized the sharing of the object, the one we own, like our apartment, or the one that is shared, like a car or a bicycle. This has been called the “sharing economy” or “collaborative”, the ultimate level of optimization of a use or a service. The American company WeWork even popularized office sharing for companies, others that of industrial machine time. A new mode of consumption is born.

As a result, many of these business models do not work, even if they are very successful.

Things turned sour when internet platforms, under pressure from their investors, took it upon themselves to make money. Airbnb has started training its apartment rental clients and Uber its taxi drivers, turning them into professionals. From additional income or the pleasure of sharing, it has become a matter of specialists who buy entire buildings to rent them out on Airbnb. And everyone thought that the codes of the informal economy, a lot of freedom and few rules, could be applied on an industrial scale. Like neighbors exasperated by the noise of wheeled suitcases in Airbnb buildings, cities now see it as a threat to their housing policy, states a misuse of their social rules, and “regulated” counterparts, such as hotels or taxis, unfair competition.

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As a result, many of these business models do not work, even if they are very successful. That of Uber and other very labor-intensive platforms has not proven its solidity. Airbnb has found its own but must manage the revolt in metropolitan areas and therefore reduce its ambitions. Paradoxically, the most robust recipes are the simplest. Leboncoin, emblem of the resourceful economy has been profitable for years (at least in France), and Wikipedia, the collaborative encyclopedia, displays very healthy finances thanks to its appeals for donation and its volunteers. The sharing economy has not finished learning about the economy itself.