The Future of Couchsurfing

Dear Couchsurfers,

For the past few months I’ve been surfing, hosting and spending time in the Ambassador’s forum answering questions. I’ve met some incredibly inspiring Couchsurfers along the way — people who literally live and breathe CS. I also went out of my way to spend time with those who are deeply critical of headquarters. After countless detailed and passionate conversations, I’m happy to report that my belief in the future of CS is stronger than ever.

I’m thankful for this opportunity to continuously question myself. The next step is to take everything we’ve learned and make changes in order to better serve our global community.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

1) Let’s reaffirm our shared values.

Couchsurfing makes a difference in the world and these values are what give CS it’s meaning.

Share Your Life: Couchsurfing is about sharing your life, your experiences, your journey, your home, your extra almonds or a majestic sunset. We believe that the spirit of generosity, when applied liberally, has the power to profoundly change the world for the better.

Create Connection: Humans are made happier and healthier by the power of meaningful connection. Connecting with and accepting the kindness of “strangers” can strengthen our faith in our fellow human beings and help us all to become better people.

Offer Kindness: Tolerance, respect and appreciation for differences are all embodied in kindness. It’s about being willing to share yourself and being willing to learn, all while giving others the benefit of the doubt.

Stay Curious: We appreciate and share a desire to learn about one another, about the world and about how we can grow as people and become better global citizens through travel.

Leave It Better Than You Found It: This applies to the world, to relationships, to your host’s home or to the sidewalk you meander down on your way to a coffee shop. We’re here to make the world better, to enhance each other’s lives and to become stronger in that purpose by coming together.

2) Let’s change the way we build the service.

Couchsurfing is more than a website. But a functional, easy-to-use site is the vital platform we all depend on to travel, stay connected and share our experiences. My top priority in 2012 was to build a team that could create a new site in a new technology that would serve Couchsurfing for the next 10 years. But building a team and migrating the technology is not enough. Some say we’ve moved too fast. Others argue we haven’t moved fast enough. I think there’s truth in both statements and it’s time to pull our learning together and synthesize a new approach.

The biggest lessons are clear: We need to work as closely with the community as possible in building and migrating the site. I need to ensure the team here has more time (and encouragement) to surf and host continuously — to live and breathe CS. We also must admit that we are missing key team members with greater Couchsurfing experience. I am moving to address these issues immediately.

Here are more specific priorities for the site in the second half of 2013:

  • Active hosts should receive more high-quality requests.
  • Surfers should connect with great hosts without writing dozens of requests.
  • The goal is quality, not quantity. New members must contribute more and share more about themselves in order to fully participate on the Couchsurfing site.
  • Event creators need stronger tools to create and promote meaningful events.
  • Place Pages need a redesign and stronger moderation.

We will be listening for feedback and engaging in constant, direct conversation to aid us making better decisions. In many cases we need to move slower in order to benefit from the feedback and ensure systems work for members the first time they use them. For example, we have delayed the release of the new surf/host engine to make it easier to use. Next week we will begin with a limited release in a small number of cities. Once the feedback is positive from both hosts and surfers, we will launch in more cities.

3) Let’s change the way we communicate.

Over the past few months we’ve answered a lot of questions and yet I’m sure there will always be more. Couchsurfing is all about openness and we will embrace that value by transparently communicating our plans to members. In the coming months we will continue the conversation about how CS is running so members understand the decisions we’re making and how we’re making them.

We will continue to examine our policies and make improvements. For example, we recently updated Couchsurfing Terms of Use based on member feedback. The main change is in section 4.3 where we state clearly, “You own all of the Member Content that you post to our Services” and we will use the information in order to “administer, operate, develop and otherwise provide the Couchsurfing Services.” The result is the most member-centric content license in the history of CS.

Tony Espinoza

Originally posted in the Couchsurfing Ambassador group.



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