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"Couchsurfing" Travel Takes Off On the Web

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the can-I-leave-my-shirts-here dept.

145

mikesd81 writes "The Associated Press writes about a growing network of people online who've gone a step beyond hotels, hostels and even apartment swapping in their travel planning: They sleep on each others' couches. A number of Web sites have sprung up to help pair travelers searching for a place to crash and hosts with a spare couch. Sites like hospitalityclub.org, couchsurfing.com, globalfreeloaders.com and place2stay.net are often free, serving only as middlemen and offering tips on how to find successful matches. The sites are largely the creations of 20-somethings bitten with wanderlust and the hope of helping to bring together people from different cultures. They often depend on volunteer administrators to help manage the Web operations."

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145 comments

Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (5, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780267)

...and leave an itinerary with someone at home, including names and addresses.

None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

99+% of the people in this world are decent folk, but some nutcase is going to take advantage of the situation. Young, often naive travellers who nobody will miss for weeks... Slurp! Yum!

Less horrifying but more likely is the following scenario: you are low on cash, you only speak 10 words of the local language, it is late in the evening, and the weather is turning bad. The couch owner says put out or get out.

Please pardon me for being cynical. I hope these optimists can turn the world into a place of love, brotherhood, and cheap lodging. We tried in the 60s with mixed results.

Great idea, but probably not good for the ladies (4, Interesting)

Salvance (1014001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780273)

This is such a great idea, particularly for male college students. I wish something like this existed 10 years ago when my friends and I traveled through Europe. To maximize the length of our stay, we slept in $10 grimy hostels and ate basically nothing (or other people's leftovers). Given that some of these services boast well over 100,000 members, I wonder at what point they start impacting the Hostel industry?

While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe. Even the hostels were pretty sketchy, and the women we ran into often traveled in groups (or with a bunch of guys) to make it safer. While they offer feedback systems like eBay, it would be pretty easy for sexual predators to fake the feedback to lure young foreign women.

Hostels (1)

kmfdmk (577142) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780275)

This sounds like a modern take on Hostels. Which from personal experience I've found to be much easier on the wallet when travelling abroad and a lot more interesting than staying in a cookie cutter hotel room.

First-hand experience (5, Informative)

cos(0) (455098) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780321)

My only experience with Couchsurfing has been excellent.

I'm a Texan who recently went to the Ohio LinuxFest 2006 with three others. We've found a great male couple on Couchsurfing, exchanged some emails, and they seemed normal. We visited them, and they took us into their home for two nights as if we were their long-lost relatives. They were incredibly hospitable, made us a temporary code in their electronic entry lock, and were in general fantastic. And, they did not expect a dime from us.

After we returned to Texas, we bought them Woot Wine as a surprise thank-you gift, and they sent a grateful email after receiving it.

This kind of behavior from your fellow human beings really lifts the spirit and encourages similar kindness from oneself. Although I am certain there are some nuts on sites like this, it always is and always will be "caveat emptor". But if you find a good host, you will forever remember the experience.

Re:Great idea, but probably not good for the ladie (0, Troll)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780331)

While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

ZzzzSleep (606571) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780345)

There's also the opposite situation where you lend your couch to a poor traveller in need and the next morning you find the traveller and some of your most treasured possessions gone.
I agree that this sounds like a cool service, but it only takes a few bad apples to really fuck it up.

Yummy (4, Funny)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780417)

The sites are largely the creations of 20-somethings bitten with wanderlust...
...and soon to be bitten by bedbugs. Lots of bedbugs.

Don't forget about head lice, either.

This isn't new... (3, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780431)

The Ski Freak Radical [nsmb.com] was doing this for ski bums well over a decade ago. I'm sure there have been all sorts of similar niche and less-niche sites serving a similar function. (Admittedly not Web 2.0, though...)

Back in my day, we had another word for this. (5, Funny)

AEton (654737) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780433)

We used to call these "hobos".

Meh, I've done the couchsurfing ProAm... (4, Interesting)

ktakki (64573) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780435)

Back in my twenties and thirties, I did the couch circuit, both pro and amateur.

I was a rock musician from 1978 to 1998 in unsigned bands, and there was an informal couch circuit among bands. An out-of-town band would play a club and make friends with the openers or headlining acts. Phone numbers would be exchanged, and when we hit their town we'd have couch space, maybe an extra bedroom or foam pad if we were lucky. Bands I was in would do three to six week tours and there wasn't room in the budget for a motel room every night. Given that all of us were riding in a van with all of our gear, sleeping in the van wasn't an option. Best case scenario was a couch five nights and a motel room or two for the rest of the week.

This sort of network could be a boon to unsigned bands, sort of an unofficial hostel system.

Then there's the amateur side: getting kicked out of apartments in Boston in the '80s because the landlord wanted to convert to condos, and not having the cash for first and last months rent plus security. The couch circuit was a way of making enough money to get that apartment. The alternatives were camping out in your band's rehearsal space (hey, cockroaches make wonderful pets!) or persuading your girlfriend to let you move in with her (hey, no farting in bed!).

Damn, I wish I had an internets back in 1982.

k.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

KeiserSoze (657078) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780453)

Not only that; imagine it the other way around. Your guest(s) arrive as planned, seem nice and stay the night. Only when you wake up all your easily pawn-able goods are gone and the "travellers" are nowhere to be found. Great in theory, though ;)

Moo (3, Funny)

Chacham (981) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780459)

Quick Geocouching.com isn't taken yet!

Been there... (1)

Monkeys!!! (831558) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780461)

My mother let someone she met online stay on the couch in our house a couple of years back.

She turned out to be a 20 something French ballet student that was studying a sexology related major...

In other news I have no more luck for the next 20 years.

On a serious note it was a great experience. We've had someone else from England stay over as well recently and that also worked out really well. It's a good way to meet interesting people.

College? (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780493)

Someone make dormsurfing.com solely for the purpose of making people miserable by "fitting" an extra person in the dorm room.

So far, so good (3, Interesting)

ignoramus (544216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780495)

I'm relatively new to couchsurfing but all my experiences to date (various parties, activities and actual couchsurfing) has been better than positive--the folks are open, fun and intelligent.

As a guy, my risk of encountering predators may be reduced... but really, I think it's articles like the above that will attract the crackpots instead of relying on word of mouth to get the message to interesting folks.

Re:Great idea, but probably not good for the ladie (0, Troll)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780519)

While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

Trust (2, Insightful)

herczy (1024845) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780523)

Hmmm... It seems that trusting the host is a very important thing. As some have pointed out, it could be an opportunity for psychos, sexual predators, etc. So, how are they handling this problem? With feedbacks? This seems to me unreliable. Or with tracking the guests? I don't know, but I couldn't be comfortable with the idea of sleeping in a strangers house.

Re:Great idea, but probably not good for the ladie (0, Troll)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780537)

While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780547)

Less horrifying but more likely is the following scenario: you are low on cash, you only speak 10 words of the local language, it is late in the evening, and the weather is turning bad. The couch owner says put out or get out.

I fail to see the downside.

RE: Great idea but probably not for the ladies (2, Funny)

William_Lee (834197) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780559)

While this is likely a great resource for men, I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe.

I don't know that it's a great idea for guys either, unless you consider anal rape a win win situation.

Hmm.. (2, Interesting)

XL70E3 (574496) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780561)

One of my friend recently went to Europe, relying on that... To her deception in fact, few honored that promise and she actually had to sleep in hotels. And that, in many countries. The idea is all good and fun but so far, has not made its proofs yet; i would not rely on that myself and would be more enclined to pay to sleep, like i actually did in Italy and France. Getting into trouble and into the unexpected is not my idea of fun for my holidays.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780565)

Brings to mind the movie - HOSTEL.......

Re:College? (1)

jpardey (569633) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780569)

That's why cluster housing is great. Shove 'em in the lounge, let them sleep on the loveseat, give them the pillow and blanket that you would never use... and hope they don't eat everything in your fridge.

This is like... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780573)

This is like sharing iPod music anonymously, except not so fucking gay.

Re: Great idea but probably not for the ladies (1)

herczy (1024845) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780579)

Would it be naive to think that these people are NOT on the net? Probably...

Re:This is like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780595)

What a terrible analogy. That's like comparing bread to a soccer ball or something.

Re:Hmm.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780597)

Getting into trouble and into the unexpected is not my idea of fun for my holidays.

That's cause you're a boring fuck. What are you, like, 50? Grow a pair.

Like Netflix for serial killers (3, Funny)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780625)

In Soviet Russia.

If you're a serial killer, your victims come to YOU.

LK

Just as likely... (1)

moosehooey (953907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780655)

It's just as likely that the person you're letting into your house will rob you. They won't necessarily put a gun to your head, but the may leave in the middle of the night with your jewelry and silverware, or even just pocket a few small items when you're not looking.

Suicidal (2, Insightful)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780657)

For guys as well as women. If you're traveling, especialy to another country, it means you at least had the money to pay for a plane ticket. Bad start. Don't expect your wallet back, IMO. Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass. Guys will get robbed, women will get abused THEN robbed sooner than you can say "its a bad idea".

You can barely go out beyond midnight outdoor without it being risky in shady districts... now you want to go the extra mile and be straight in the wacko's apartment, saving him the trouble of getting you there? Haha, riiiiiiight...

GoSleepGo.com (2, Informative)

LandownEyes (838725) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780675)

GoSleepGo.com [gosleepgo.com] is doing this as well, but more of their focus is on just showing off your hometown as opposed to giving a place to stay.

Re:Great idea [cut!] (1)

muszek (882567) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780677)

This is such a great idea, particularly for male college students. I wish something like this existed 10 years ago when my friends and I traveled through Europe. To maximize the length of our stay, we slept in $10 grimy hostels and ate basically nothing (or other people's leftovers).
Heh... couple of years ago my girlfriend and I sailed from Stettin (Poland) to Amsterdam (two-way trip was too expensive). We were planning on staying in A. for few nights and hitchhiking all the way back to Poland. Before the whole trip, I asked on Dutch forums of one online game I play if anyone could host us for those few nights... nobody from Amsterdam answered, but one nice guy invited us to Rotterdam.

Sleeping in Amsterdam was a bit hard-core. We wandered till late at night (until everyone went to sleep), sneaked into a marina (that we used when we arrived) and slept on the ground. One sleeping bag on the ground, and one to cover us. We had to wake up at 6 a.m., cause we didn't want to be discovered by "the boss of marina" (sorry, I don't know English term for it). Luckily, after some time parks were being opened, so we could sleep there. One thing that I remember well - weather was relatively nice (people were wearing t-shirts and shorts), but we were cold while wearing sweaters - now I can understand why all those homeless people have so many layers of clothing on them...

Then we went to Rotterdam and slept there as described in TFA. Our hosts were incredibly hospitable (went on tour with us, paid for everything even if we really didn't want them to, etc.) and even drove us like 30km away from R., till we find a big enough gas station to easily find someone who would go east and take us. We found a ride immediately... and that guy (a programmer, btw :D ) made like 200km more than he needed to just to get us to the German border. Dutch people are great!

Re:Trust (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780723)

So, how are they handling this problem? With feedbacks?
Sure, why not? Someone just needs to post a review like this:
Joe seemed like a nice guy, but suddenly in the middle of the night, he smashed my head in with a shovel. Then he slit my throat, just to be sure, and buried most of my body in his basement, covered with lime. Here I was, dead, and my family never figure out where I was. I recommend against staying with Joe, and give him only one and a half stars.
And that will pretty much solve the predators problem. They only get to kill one traveller, and they'll get a bad review and that will be the end of it. Think about it: Would you stay with someone who only got one and a half stars? Ok, maybe you would. But then your review would go like this:
I read that Joe murdered his last couchsurfer, who rated him pretty low. I was sceptical, though. Couldn't it just be someone who had a grudge? So I stayed with Joe. People, this was a mistake. He murdered me too, and buried me in his basement. I really have to agree with the previous reviewer, that you shouldn't stay with Joe. I give him one star.
..which would probably be followed by..
Previous reviewers said Joe was a bad host, but I noticed that both of them had been murdered. I think getting murdered biases reviewers, and maybe Joe isn't really all that bad, outside of context. So I stayed with Joe. Joe's couch is actually pretty comfy. I just have two complaints: 1) There is an absolutely aweful smell coming from the basement. 2) At one point in the night, Joe suddenly appeared at the head of the couch, holding a shovel. When I asked what he was up to, he was evasive. I don't know, but something about that, made me nervous. I had a lot of trouble getting back to sleep. Because of this, I only give Joe two stars. UPDATE: On the return leg of my trip, I stayed with Joe again, and he murdered me and buried most of my remains in his basement, totally throwing off the rest of my travel schedule. If you have an inflexible itinerary or are bothered by bad smells coming from the basement, it's more of a one star host.

At this point, after 3 bad reviews, I think Joe's popularity will suffer. Sure, some people will think it's just an astroturfing sock-puppet campaign by someone who has an axe to grind(*), so maybe some people will still stay at Joes, but for the most part, he'll be a pariah.

(*) Because the guy with the axe to grind, gets even worse reviews than Joe.

Re:Suicidal (1)

ignoramus (544216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780749)

Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass.

You are correct, but it is only the perception of risk which has increased, not the actual risks. There are now 6 billion of us on this rock, and we hear about every bus accident and anal rape and then we fantasize about many more in our fiction on TV and in film.

In real life, the number of "horrible-things-that-happen per person per day" has decreased dramatically... our fertility hasn't changed much (we didn't all of a sudden start having triplets) except to decrease in some places, so how is it we are attaining such high population densities? (yes, I understand exponential growth... But this doesn't happen to all life (else we'd be drowning in bacteria), something normally limits populations. Could it be that, on average, we are safer than before (from all risks, famine & disease to murder at the hands of highway robbers)?

People who've never even spoken to someone on one of these sites are all obsessing about how many bad people there are in the world... We keep focusing on serial killers and terrorists--sheesh, enough! Time to get our risk evaluations straight, and maybe live a little on the side. Time to read "If only gay sex caused global warming [latimes.com] " again...

Sounds like fun (2, Interesting)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780753)

My cousin recently did a 3 month journey across the states, filming a close-to-zero-budget documentary. He only stayed in hostels for 4 or 5 nights all up, and managed to find sofas and spare beds through websites like the abovementioned for the rest of his journey. Open source accommodation, I love it :)

Trust people, don't make the world a worse place (1)

sien (35268) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780757)

Sure, take precautions, but it's really important that we trust other people and meet other people.

You are far more likely to be killed by someone you know than a stranger. Your children are far more likely to be abused by your friends or a relative than a stranger.

We have to make friends and trust people. A lot of commercial transactions depend on trust. eBay relies on trust. Open source is built on trust of others.

I'm on couchsurfing and have had good experiences. It works. We should trust others rather than lock ourselves in gated communities and empty the streets.

Sure, take precautions, but it's really important to get out there and make new connections. It's the way we build social capital.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780795)

I've been a member on these sites for a long time. I haven't stayed with anyone because of them because I haven't asked, but I put people up all the time. The only weird guy was some programmer which turned to "web programmer" when I asked. A few years of me programming isn't going to let some guy fool with me "I'm a programmer". When I asked he'd taken a class on html.

I also spent the 1990s in punk rock bands and it's the same thing. We play in your town and stay at your place, you play in our town and stay at our place.

No big deal. 99% of people are decent people, but there's some nutcases. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. If I wanted to be safe, I'd stay at home and spend my money steel plating the walls to keep meteors from bashing my head in.

Re:Great idea, but probably not good for the ladie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780801)

It exists in Europe, but it is not for everyone, which may make one conclude it does not exist. It exists in various scenes from party scenes to activism related.

This is a travesty! (1)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780819)

One cannot mingle with the native women while on a couch at home!
Go out there on your mission to seek out strange new worlds, rip your shirt and get it on with the green skinned women!

Re:Suicidal (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780831)

Don't get me wrong, I met my fiancee over the net, and she lived in another country, and I went ahead, took a plane, got to meet her, and we've been together for several years now and all is good. But a web site where people expressively do this, is kind of like if I posted online that I was going to be all alone in a dark corner of downtown at midnight next wednesday. Out of the -millions- of people that will see it (if the web site is mainstream enough), at least ONE is bound to be a wacko, which is my point...

if you meet someone online, chat with them for a year, trade pictures, videos, talk on the phone, etc, then decide to go on a trip and stay at their place, THEN the risk is minimal. If you -advertise- that you want to stay at someone else's place, kiss your virginity good bye =P

Re:Been there... (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780837)

You know, I think you might be one of those creepy people that they're discussing further up in the thread ... ;)

Re:Suicidal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780853)

My God, do you really live in this much fear of the world? I pity you.

Re:Sounds like fun (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780865)

sounds interesting. if he a site or anything send a link!

Re: Suicidal (4, Insightful)

ignoramus (544216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780873)

Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass.

You are correct, but it is only the perception of risk which has increased, not the actual risks. There are now 6 billion of us on this rock, and we hear about every bus accident and anal rape and then we fantasize about many more in our fiction on TV and in film.

In real life, the number of "horrible-things-that-happen per person per day" has decreased dramatically... our fertility hasn't changed much (we didn't all of a sudden start having triplets) except to decrease in some places, so how is it we are attaining such high population densities? (yes, I understand exponential growth... But this doesn't happen to all life (else we'd be drowning in bacteria), something normally limits populations. Could it be that, on average, we are safer than before (from all risks, famine & disease to murder at the hands of highway robbers)?

People who've never even spoken to someone on one of these sites are all obsessing about how many bad people there are in the world... We keep focusing on serial killers and terrorists--sheesh, enough! Time to get our risk evaluations straight, and maybe live a little on the side. Time to read "If only gay sex caused global warming [latimes.com] " again...

Wow. (1)

Riley Holmes (1017846) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780885)

I never thought anything like this existed. For the past year, I've been planning to move to India when I turn 20. I planned to stay at cheap 5-dollar hotels. But now that I know this exists, I'll just find cool people to stay with. Even if it means taking a chubby, I'll suck it up.

I couchsurfed this past summer (4, Interesting)

Babblin' Joe (696700) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780915)

I spent the past summer doing the typical cross country road trip thing. I met nothing but nice people all along the way and only ever stayed in a hotel a few times (vegas and reno). With people worrying about safety it is just like any other online venture, if you don't trust someone, don't invite them over, simple as that. I stayed with people in st.louis, albequerque, santa cruz, san diego, L.A., all over. Everyone I met was super nice and just awesome people in general, I recommend couchsurfing highly. I chronicled all of my adventures at http://boxmansion.com/roadtrip [boxmansion.com] in case anyone cares to read

Re:Sounds like fun (1)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780921)

No news yet, I'll keep you posted.

Re:Been there... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780923)

french women are dogs, and they go woof when you fuck them. i'm sorry, but it's just a fact.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16780935)

I don't know for other sites, but you're wrong for CouchSurfing. There is a ID verification process (via credit card for the id verification, plus a secret pin sent to the credit card billing address, confirming that the credit card AND the billing address corresponds to your identity), plus there is a vouching system that members who've been vouched for enough can vouch for other people, basically creating a circle of trust.

No, not everyone is checked or vouched for, its up to the surfer and the host to decide how much risk he's willing to take.

Re: Suicidal (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780939)

sorry but the even a 1 in 1000000 chance of anal rape while sleeping on a strangers couch is FAR too high for me, and i suspect most other people.

Re:Suicidal (1)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780973)

OTOH, if you're sleeping on other peoples' couches, you probably don't have TOO much money on you.

It depends on the situation, but this certainly looks like a viable alternative to hostels.

20 yo's? Try 60 yo's! (3, Interesting)

grrrl (110084) | more than 7 years ago | (#16780989)

In my (limited) experience I've found it's oldies who are loving this kind of site - my dad and his girlfriend have had people from England, France, Ireland come and stay with them and on a recent family trip to France we crashed for two nights at 'friends' of theirs who I later found out they had never met before, but had found on couchsurfing.com!

It makes sense for older couples (50s/60s) whose children have left, who have big houses but time to travel and hang out and just socialise instead of work! Also, there is a more implicit sense of 'safety' when it's an older couple, and when it becomes networked - so-and-so stayed with them so they must be good etc...

Re:First-hand experience (1)

vonsneerderhooten (254776) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781013)

...caveat emptor...
you'd be surprized at how many people think this is a greek phrase.

Note to the inept(mods): this is a poor/subtle attempt at facetiousness. The dry delivery combined with the inclusion of the 'all greek to me' cliche and parent's latin reference seemed fitting.

Global traveler rating system is needed. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781017)

We need a way to document, rate, review each traveler. We need a way to at least know the difference between the good and bad guests. Perhaps if there is a nice advanced communication system between all of the people involved in this activity, then yes, what can happen is, you can take in strangers, but you'd also know which strangers not to accept based on how they treated that friend of yours who took them in.

I don't worry so much about just the houses, you also have to worry about the guests. As far as sexual predators, and knowing whos house you are in, thats another huge problem. You seem to think only young women would be lured, but young men also could be lured, any situation is possible, all I can say is, we'd need a good safety system in place before this could take off beyond a few hundred people, once you have thousands of people doing it, you will have your percentage of crazies.

This scares me for another reason. Jeff Dahmer (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781031)

There are bound to be people with Jeff Dahmer syndrome, who will just get weird once they get you in their house. So it depends on how it's organized. If the room has a lock on it, or if you are in a group, perhaps you can feel somewhat safer but it still does not seem very safe.

I'm not saying a hostel is completely safe but at least it's well organized. This is free, but it needs to be organized better, a least of names, a list of alias's, just something so people can know who they are dealing with.

Yes there are good people in the world, but there are just as many predators.

Re:Trust (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781049)

I could be comfortable with the idea, but it's seriously not going to be the first option. It's better than the streets though.

Re:Trust (1)

herczy (1024845) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781067)

What you say is natural selection.

Re: Suicidal (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781075)

You're right, but the people who sign up as hosts on sites like these are likely not a representative sample of humanity. The question is, are people with evil intent more likely to sign up to a website like this.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781109)

I couchsurfed in 2002, with a person I met on eBay. I had an excellent time, the couch was comfy, and they smoked outside so my nose wasn't bothered.

They even had 0 feedback, but they were just using a posting ID, and had more than 1000 positives on their main ID if I remember correctly.

NYC Jan 11-13th (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16781199)

Cool guy who likes music. Looking for a place to crash, lemme know!

Common interests (4, Informative)

RareButSeriousSideEf (968810) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781235)

After about 8 years of hosting an annual group of 12 - 16 randomly collected folks, I have to say that I haven't met a real asshole in the bunch. A bore or drone here and there, to be sure, but no real assholes to speak of. (Just noticing that Firefox 2.0 apparently has "asshole" in its spellchecker dictionary right out of the box... good deal.)

I think the mitigating factor here is that, although these are people from the internets, they're not from a general "find a place to stay" sort of site. These are folks who are willing to spend 24 hours straight watching B-movies (http://www.b-fest.com/), and who have interacted with other groupies long enough to achieve at least a virtual sense of familiarity. So, couch surfers? Sure. But strangers? Only in the physical sense.

Besides... IMO, if someone is willing to watch 24 hours of fare like Tiny Town, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Let my Puppets Come, Kingdom of the Spiders, Robot Monster and Orgy of the Dead just to rape and murder me afterwards, well dammit, they deserve it, and God bless `em. The moral of the story is that I can't vouch for people who're only known by their desire to couch surf at your house. I also can't vouch for people who share whatever quirky interests you happen to be into. But I can vouch for B-Movie fanatics... they tend to bring unexpected housewarming gifts & to leave your place cleaner than they found it. In crowds, they also tend to round up dramatically when a collective restaurant tab goes `round the table. They got my vote.

I've used CS (1)

g1zmo (315166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781267)

I've had my CouchSurfing profile for about a year and a half. I used it once to find a place to crash in Norway last year, and have had a couple of folks contact me while they were in Texas. There is a limited verification system involving a donation to the project with a credit card and verifying your address.

Re:Suicidal (1)

NoCashValue (244702) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781305)

You're an idiot. Is spreading FUD about something you have NO CLUE about your idea of a great way to while away those lonely hours locked in your parent's basement, you freaking troglodyte?

How about you get onto the site and check it out, see the Verification system and read the guidelines and tips?

Get a clue. This isn't a setup for people like you who expect to be coddled all their lives.

Take responsibility for yourself, check things out and you can get a good feel about the person you are looking to stay with.

Now, go back to Bumfuck, Idaho and carry on never owning a passport.

Let's Celebrate! (1)

Jekler (626699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781331)

For the 600th time, another generation has actually discovered sex, drugs, and rock & roll!

People have been crashing on other people's couches since the couch was invented. Of course everything seems so new and exciting when you say "Yes, but now this activity has a web site!"

Networking with other people, socializing, long distance communication, and traveling around like a hobo sleeping wherever someone will let you is not new. The kids who believe web 2 is revolutionary because it fosters socialization are delusional.

Shockingly enough, society had means of coordinating activities before desktop computers. Marker Boards/Cork Boards allowed people to make similar arrangements. You got into town, stopped at the local youth club had a break-dance fight garnering respect from the rival break dance gang so they allowed you to crash on their couch during your journey to find yourself, find love, and gain those amazing teenager insights that will pave the way for you to become an assistant manager at McDonalds in 5 years. But now it's done on computers!

Hey (4, Funny)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781347)

Where is the "itsatrap" tag when you need it?

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

roamzero (920097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781363)

I fully expect a CSI episode about this.

lift trashing (1)

Pliep (880962) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781367)

Reminds me of lift-trashing (or indeed elevator-trashing) stories from the eighties where you book into a large hotel, and then at night use the elevators to visit each floor and then stuff anything movable (paintings, plants, furniture) from the corridors into the elevator until it's full. This also brings people together.

mmm vagueness (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781395)

"growing network"
from 2 to 3 is growth

"A number of Web sites"
zero is a number, so is 8 billion

Sounds like another web-fad the media will be all over for a couple days and we'll never hear about again, described in their usual vague, trying to make it sound explosive and epidemic, manner.

If my wife kicks me out of bed... (1)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781401)

...and tells me to go sleep on the sofa, is that considered couch-surfing?

Re:Suicidal (1)

paulthomas (685756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781427)

Oh come on. Live a little.

it puts the lotion in the basket.

enough with this sexist shit already! (1)

tuxette (731067) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781473)

"Couchsurfing", "global freeloading", and the such... it's all old news... I did it back in '92 when I Interrailed, I would even do it again now, and I know plenty of women, including solo travellers, who do it now. WITHOUT ANY PROBLEMS. I've hosted both male and female travellers who have been nothing other than kind and civilized. NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER.

It's a matter of doing your research properly and trusting your instincts.

In all my discussions with other travellers, men and women, it's men who are more likely to be a victim of some kind of crime. Not women. And in case something does happen, women are more likely to get help than men.

cs.com (1)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781487)

I recently took a 10,000 mile road trip around the States (soon to be chronicled on my journal [wellingtongrey.net] ) and seriously considered doing this. I even set up a profile and started contacting people but, in the end, the safety concerns kept we away. Now I don't believe that the world is as scary as the media portrays it, and I'm sure I missed out on meeting some great people and learning more about the local areas (Not to mention saving £1,000) but in the end, I just couldn't feel secure knowing I was going to some random house at the end of the night.

-Grey.

Re:So far, so good (1)

tuxette (731067) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781521)

Actually, as a guy, your risk is higher than that of a woman - especially when so many guys feel that they are not at risk because they are guys, and let their guard down...

Travel in Esperanto (1)

pschmied (5648) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781551)

The Esperanto language community has something called "Pasporta Servo [tejo.org] " (English wikipedia article here [wikipedia.org] ).

It always seemed to me that this would be a fun way to travel. You can go to foreign countries, get a place to crash, an interesting host, and not feel like a clod for only speaking English. I guess I like the idea of traveling and meeting people half-way.

Plus, it's a way to expand your mind and make a statement for peace and global understanding by learning esperanto (as if you needed a reason!) :-)

Hmm... that reminds me, I'm behind on my language lessons at lernu [lernu.net] .

Scifi convention goes have been doing this for ... (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781559)

Convention goers have been doing this for ages as have SCA, deadheads and other groups. You put out a call to share a hotel room, either for free space, share some of the hotel bill or something and see if anyone is interested. It's now much easier with the internet. Having a group of like minded people goes a long way to vetting them as trustworthy or at least mostly harmless.

Where's itsatrap? (1)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781613)

Of all the stories to *not* be tagged with "itsatrap" - just think, you could use this to lure beautiful hitchhiker chicks to your couch or something...

image a beo- (1)

kn0tw0rk (773805) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781635)

couch cluster of them.
But the only new thing here is the internet being used to hook up people.
Most interest groups like bands, SCA, rpg/con/fandom etc have used something like this.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

golgotha007 (62687) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781731)

I don't know about the others, but I've been using Couchsurfing for about a year now.

Couchsurfing has a few different types of checks. A simple one is that 3 other "verified" members must vouch for you and then you can become "verified". Another verification check is done with a credit card.

I've hosted many people and I've surfed many, many places.

Just so you know, there's 2 different types of experiences here:

1. The people hosting you pass you a key, tell you to not stay out late and want to know when you're shipping out so they can get the key back.
2. The people hosting you are excited to hear about your travels, want to get to know you and show you all the cool places in town.

#2 happens more often than not (thank god).

It's obvious that couchsurfing is made attractive because of free room and board, but the best reason is that the people hosting you show you all the cool underground places that tourists never find. They know just where to go to give you the "true" feeling of whatever city you're in.

However, staying in hostels do have one benefit not gained from couchsurfing: you can meet lots of people in hostels that are looking to travel together, so going from hostel to hostel typically isn't a lonely affair. Personally, my best experience was traveling the length of Italy with 7 good looking girls I managed to pick up :)

im on ur couch (2, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781769)

stealin ur change

Re:Suicidal (1)

golgotha007 (62687) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781783)

and therein lies one of American's biggest problems:

I'm an American, but moved to Europe several years ago. I currently live in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The whole "wacko apartment" thing is fairly non-existent here.

As an example, here in St Pete, if you want to go anywhere, just stick out your arm. A car will immediately stop to take you where you want to go for an extremely reasonable price. This sort of thing wouldn't last 5 seconds in the States without people getting robbed, raped or murdered.

I feel very safe here, even walking around the slums.

Surfing since 2 years (1)

tarion23 (1024933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781793)

To all the people who wrote frightened comments: I'm surfing couches and let people surf mine since over two years ago, mostly with hospitalityclub and some couchsurfing. With all the about 80 people I hosted, I never ever had a single bad experience but great adventures, fun - or at least a decent time while I had to work or study. In summer, I was hitchhiking 2 1/2 months through eastern europe (from Helsinki to Sarajevo) and only stayed at members of hospitalityclub - and one night at home of one of my hitchhiking-drivers who offered a place to stay, because it was raining real hard. The Hospitalityclub-members as well as the Couchsurfing-members meet regularly at parties to get to know each other and see old friends. With the comments you can leave on other people's profiles, there exists a good working, relyable network of trust. A friend of a friend is your friend. It's easy and it works. Like this, I'm connected to people all over the world - and the more active you are, the easier it is for you to be trusted in and to help newbies to be trusted. Talking about HC and CS, people who don't use or know these services always come up with the: ok for boys, too dangerous for girls topic. For me, this assumption is most of all sexistic. Based on all the experiences told by the many, many travelling girls I met in cs and hc, travelling alone as a girl needs some special attention in some areas. But at the same time, it's so easy, as you will encounter many helping hands and open arms, that make your life easier and your trip even better. And basically, the real threats are the same for boys and girls, men and women and don't connect to the whole couchsurfing-thing - being mugged or robbed, the typical threat for any tourist. But that's why we are surfing couches: because we're living together with the locals for a few days, see their city and meet their people. That way, you're not a stranger but for a short while a friend of these people. As a friend once put it: Travelling as a tourist, you can see a city. With hospitalityclub you can experience it. It's like you lived there and return to the places you always hang out with your friends. This not only offers a unique experience, but also makes it safer for you. And even if you don't want to use other couches - getting guests from all over the world in the last two years was like travelling without leaving my livingroom. I met so many nice people, had so many interesting talks and just great and insane parties. Thinking of hostels and hotels just makes me wonder, how anyone can chose that instead of - just for one weekend - living with friends I never met before - and which will most probably stay in my heart forever.

Re:Wow. (1)

z0idberg (888892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781801)

>I'll suck it up.

That should get you breakfast thrown in then I reckon.

NOT TRUE (1)

rhesuspieces00 (804354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781807)

None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

That simply isn't true. I can't speak for the other sites, but Casey Fenton, who started couchsurfing.com, is a friend of a friend. I registered with the site a few years ago and am pretty familiar with it. There are multiple forms of verification and safety checks. They are all optional, but it allows you to be fairly discerning about who you stay with, or who you allow to sleep on your couch. Some of the security measures include.

Address verification To become verified, you must make a payment with a credit card in your name with a billing address matching that on record. A letter is sent with a confirmation code to that address that is entered online to verify the profile.

Vouching This system recently changed to become more strict. Basically, starting with the core group of people who began the site, they can vouch for people they know personally. A person vouched for 3 times can in turn vouch for someone else. As part of the user agreement, you can only vouch for friends you know personally--not acquaintances or people you have only spoken to online. Obviously this can't be very well policed, but anyone found in violation is immediately and irrevocably banned from the site, so it is taken seriously.

Feedback You can leave feedback on the profile for anyone whose couch you surf. Likewise, they can rate you as their guest.

Connection Strength Like any other social networking site, you link your profile to those of your friends. Unlike other sites, you also rate how well you know the person on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "I don't really know this person" up to "I trust this person with my life." So besides looking at feedback from previous couchsurfers, you can gauge what sort of people the couch owner hangs out with, and to some extent how trustworthy those people consider him/her.

Email Records You are encouraged to use the web sites messaging service to communicate with the other party rather than by phone or private email. Records are kept of the communication, so if someone disappears, there are some pretty strait-forward clues as to where to look for them. This doesn't necessarily prevent a crime from happening, but it makes it unlikely the criminal would get away with anything if it did occur.

Clearly it is still possible something could go wrong and a psycho could get through the cracks and kill you. You might also get hit by a meteor. Its up to you to decide what risks you are willing to take, but honestly I would feel at least as safe staying at the house of someone who has passed all the above hurdles as I would checking into a cheap hotel I know nothing about in a town I'm not familiar with.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

kavandje (629704) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781825)

None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

Not entirely true.

At least with hospitalityclub.org, there's a kind of ad-hoc peer-reviewed identity checking. Example: you stay at my house. I check your passport/other ID and verify your identity. I can then say on your profile that you were my guest, and that I verified your identity. Likewise, you can check my identity and post on my profile that you checked it. Couchsurfing has a comparable mechanism.

If I hypothetically found you to be a creep, I can say so in the 'I was Harmonious Botch's Host' section. It seems to be a surprisingly effective way of keeping out the creeps. Because if you want to stay at my house, you send me a message through the site, and I can check to see what peoples' general opinion of you was. If I don't like what I see, I can say no.

Individuals are responsible for the risks inherent in letting people stay over, but IMO that is the case whether you met them online or in a bar while backpacking in Kathmandu.

Likewise, people are responsible for their own safety, whether they're staying on a CS/HC member's couch, whether they take an overloaded matatu from Nairobi to Mtito Andei, or whether they stay at a Club Med resort. Someone young/naiive enough to stay in a dangerous place will be in danger irrespective of how they got there.

Peer review doesn't work for everyone; I know of one HCer who photographs guests, photocopies their passports and makes 'em sign a waiver.

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

arashi no garou (699761) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781847)

99+% of the people in this world are decent folk


You don't get out much, do you?

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

rhesuspieces00 (804354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781899)

(sorry if this comment appears twice. I posted it 20 minutes ago and it is yet to appear.)

None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references. And the liability assumed thereunder would be huge if they did, so they probably never will.

That simply isn't true. I can't speak for the other sites, but Casey Fenton, who started couchsurfing.com, is a friend of a friend. I registered with the site a few years ago and am pretty familiar with it. There are multiple forms of verification and safety checks. They are all optional, but it allows you to be fairly discerning about who you stay with, or who you allow to sleep on your couch. Some of the security measures include.

Address verification To become verified, you must make a payment with a credit card in your name with a billing address matching that on record. A letter is sent with a confirmation code to that address that is entered online to verify the profile.

Vouching This system recently changed to become more strict. Basically, starting with the core group of people who began the site, they can vouch for people they know personally. A person vouched for 3 times can in turn vouch for someone else. As part of the user agreement, you can only vouch for friends you know personally--not acquaintances or people you have only spoken to online. Obviously this can't be very well policed, but anyone found in violation is immediately and irrevocably banned from the site, so it is taken seriously.

Feedback You can leave feedback on the profile for anyone whose couch you surf. Likewise, they can rate you as their guest.

Connection Strength Like any other social networking site, you link your profile to those of your friends. Unlike other sites, you also rate how well you know the person on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "I don't really know this person" up to "I trust this person with my life." So besides looking at feedback from previous couchsurfers, you can gauge what sort of people the couch owner hangs out with, and to some extent how trustworthy those people consider him/her.

Email Records You are encouraged to use the web sites messaging service to communicate with the other party rather than by phone or private email. Records are kept of the communication, so if someone disappears, there are some pretty strait-forward clues as to where to look for them. This doesn't necessarily prevent a crime from happening, but it makes it unlikely the criminal would get away with anything if it did occur.

Clearly it is still possible something could go wrong and a psycho could get through the cracks and kill you. You might also get hit by a meteor. Its up to you to decide what risks you are willing to take, but honestly I would feel at least as safe staying at the house of someone who has passed all the above hurdles as I would checking into a cheap hotel I know nothing about in a town I'm not familiar with.

Re:Great idea, but probably not good for the ladie (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16781909)

While they offer feedback systems like eBay, it would be pretty easy for sexual predators to fake the feedback to lure young foreign women.
Although it's true that most men can overpower most women, I think a lot of girls would get more spine when they practiced a little self-defense. I knew a girl once with whom I went to boxing lessons. She was a very good-{natured,looking} girl but I'd definitely feel sorry for any guy who thought he could slap her on the ass.

For the doomsayers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16781971)

How come we haven't got a "bad experience" post over here yet?

Re:Great idea, but probably not good for the ladie (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 7 years ago | (#16782039)

I couldn't imagine using one if I were a woman traveling in Europe
There are civilised parts of Europe, you know? Or have you seen "Hostel" recently?

Re:Suicidal (1)

koreth (409849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16782089)

Last I checked, in the last decade(decades?), just taking a ride in a stranger's car (and vice versa) was pretty much out of the question if you valued your ass.

Crime rates in general have been much lower over the last couple decades than in the decades before that, at least in the US. Why would taking a ride in a stranger's car have gotten more dangerous when everything else has gotten much safer?

I think it's more a function of increasingly pervasive news coverage. Two decades ago, there wasn't room on the nightly national news to cover the kidnapping of some teenage hitchhiker two states away from you, so if that happened you would have never heard a peep about it. Now you'll hear about it on the Internet if you're looking for that kind of story. But the fact that it's easier to find out about something now doesn't mean that it's actually happening any more often.

If you really think hitchhiking has gotten more dangerous lately, go check out this book [elijahwald.com] by someone who has actually hitchhiked across the country and very much disagrees with that perception.

Re:First-hand experience (1)

caranha (680518) | more than 7 years ago | (#16782143)

I loved the idea, and decided to sign up to offer my place in the site (like I already do in some mailing lists with similar purposes).

However, when reading the terms and conditions, it was clearly written that my personal information would be released to "third parties that support our operation". Advertisers?

So, on one hand, it seems to me that it defeats the point to sign up with a throw away e-mail address, on the other, I'm not registering my e-mail on a site that says right front that they're handing over my personal info to advertisers.

Could anyone with actual experience on the service provide me with some clue?

(Hospitality Club seemed more reasonable in their sign-in forms, though)

Re:Suicidal (1)

frenchbedroom (936100) | more than 7 years ago | (#16782177)

Life is like a box of choc'lates. You never know what'yer gonn' get.

And I'd further the metaphor by saying that the probability of you eating a poisoned chocolate is very, very low. Just try to look on the bright side and stop believing the whole world is a dangerous and mysterious place.

Re:For the doomsayers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16782495)

Dead people don't post!

Re:First-hand experience (1)

tarion23 (1024933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16782501)

Hey, I don't know, what Couchsurfing does with your address, but I'm VERY certain, it's nothing like advertisers. For Hospitalityclub I KNOW, that nothing happens with your address. It is in an encrypted database and can only be accessed from some volunteers for example for sign-up purposes (plausibility-check and so on). Only if you want to set your address visible to the public, this will happen (I did it like that and didn't receive ANY mail- or phonespam, also because I locked my profile from searchengines). On Hospitalityclub, there's no other advertising then Google-Ads. Hope, this helped somehow. My profiles: HC: tarion CS: knoke

Re:im on ur couch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16782527)

lol

Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (1)

TheManFromTheWoods (1024085) | more than 7 years ago | (#16782613)

None of these sites, TTBOMK, asks for or checks references.


Actually, couchsurfing.com has a vouching system, where couchsurfers can vouch for each other. Once a couchsurfer or host has been vouched for by 3 other members that are vouched themselves, he's considered to be trusted.


You can only vouch for people you've met personally. You can lose your own vouched status if ever you're caught vouching for someone you don't have met.


Re:Check for freshly turned dirt in the yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16782619)

A simple look at the actual registration proces would prove you false. couchsurfing.com (I don't know abou the others) has several well thought-out verification systems. You can have a verified identity (through a donation per VISA combined with a code that is sent by regular mail, sort of like an opt-in system). There's also a vouching system that is very robust, as well as tons of social control.

Of course, you are not obliged to surf or host with only the most reliable/verified "profiles", but then again, you don't *have* to do anything. You may ask for a passport upon arrival, I once held on to a drivers license throughout my guests' stay, no problem. Anonymity is a very bad idea in this system and I always refuse people that have a shady or very incomplete profile.

In general, for people that act sensibly and do a bit of research on their hosts or guests, I fail to see how it would be less safe than some random little hotel out there.
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