What’s changed on Couchsurfing?

Short Answer? Everything. We rebuilt the entire platform, from the web servers to the databases. The previous website was built – largely by volunteers – over a ten-year period. As a result, we accumulated a lot of “tech debt” (engineering-speak for inefficiency due to poor or outdated systems and infrastructure), which meant that the site was slow, unreliable, expensive to run, and difficult to improve.

We had to start from scratch to create a modern platform for Couchsurfing. And in addition to fixing our technical infrastructure, we took the opportunity to re-envision Couchsurfing from a product and design perspective, making it faster, prettier, more intuitive, more useful, and hopefully more fun.

The New Couchsurfing

Here are just a few of the highlights (of the thousands of things that have changed):

  • Couchsurfing works better on mobile devices and low bandwidth connections.

  • Search is much more relevant, highlighting members with complete profiles and who have recently logged in. Keyword search is now supported and “Search by Map” is coming soon.

  • A unified inbox combines messages and Couchrequests in one place, with threaded conversations. Templated responses and the “include directions” feature are coming in the next few weeks.

  • You’ll see a dashboard with relevant local events, reminders, and action items on your home page.

  • You can connect your Facebook account to find your Facebook friends on Couchsurfing. We’ll be adding a “friends in common” feature soon.

  • We’ve made it easier to leave references for friends on Couchsurfing.

  • ‘Place Pages’ are now ‘Local Discussions’, and they’re defined by proximity instead of fixed geographic locations.

  • New members can join using their full name or first name and last initial; Couchsurfers who currently have a “username” can continue to use it.

  • We’ve simplified groups settings to make things easier for users to understand.

  • We now highlight upcoming events near the destinations you’re traveling to (or near your home location if you’re not traveling). We’ve simplified events, too, by removing the “follow” option.

  • Event hosts will be able to create recurring events for up to 3 months at a time. We’re building features that allow hosts to build and edit multiple events at the same time, and to add future occurrences of a repeating event, stringing events together in a series over months or years.Couchsurfing on IOS

  • We’re working on making it easier for members to discover relevant events and building tools to make it easier for event organizers to promote them.

  • When Couchsurfing was originally designed, HTML was the tool of choice for customizing user profiles (MySpace, LiveJournal), but that’s no longer the case, and HTML doesn’t display consistently across modern devices. We’ve simplified and streamlined the site so that it works consistently for everyone on all devices and that meant removing most HTML customizations from profiles. We now support links and are working on adding rich content to member profiles.

  • Profile completeness is important to building trust and improving the Couchsurfing community – since other members are much less likely to respond or reach out to members with skeletal profiles, we’re encouraging members to complete their profiles to improve the quality of the Couchsurfing experience for all. Requiring profile completeness also limits the potential for spam posts within Couchsurfing and serves as a checklist for new members who are learning how to participate. We’re working on allowing members to ‘dismiss’ the profile completeness module if they’re content with their profiles.

  • Location Verification has been removed and we no longer send Verification postcards. Members who are Location Verified will retain that status. We’re building better methods of identity, account, and location verification.

  • Your contacts list will be temporarily inaccessible while we rebuild the Contacts tool, which we’ll release in about six weeks.

  • couchsurfing_android

    We’re translating the site into multiple languages – it’s not all there yet, and will get better over the next few days.

  • We’ve simplified our site by removing the vouching feature since references are the primary way to endorse other members. We’re preserving existing vouches and the vouched icon, though.

  • We removed “Last Login Location” since it was sometimes inaccurate and raised member privacy concerns.

  • The gender option “Several People” has been replaced with “Other” to comply with best practices regarding gender. We’re working on ways for couples or travel partners to connect their profiles.

  • We’re working on adding a world map of where you’ve travelled and whom you’ve hosted to share on your profile.

These are just a few of the changes you’ll discover – we also hope you’ll notice that the site is:

  1. faster
  2. more reliable
  3. easier to use, and
  4. much easier for us to improve and modify.

We’d like to thank:

Jim Nist, Alex Paul, Andrew Sotzing, Antonio Rodrigues, Sylvain Niles, Travis Forden, Gemma Barlow, Donna McCulloch, Nicolas Milliard, Kateryna Sytnyck, Nathaniel Wolf, Aryan Ghassemi, Eric Steen, Tom Herrick, Charlie Killian and Richard Mitchell for their hard work in rebuilding our entire site.

Hass Lunsford, Maisy Samuelson and Steven Stegman for their hard work in redesigning our entire site.

And Connor Schmidt and Jen Wong for organizing testing, and our amazing beta testers from the Couchsurfing community, who provided feedback and invaluable help testing our site.

We ask for your patience in this transition – we’ve written 75,000 lines of code, migrated 2,200,000,000 database records, and made thousands of design decisions in a very short time with a very small team. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, which has been akin to rebuilding and upgrading an airplane in flight. We know that there will probably be things that don’t happen according to plan. And we’ve almost certainly made changes that not every one of you will agree with.

This is just our first step down a new path. Couchsurfing’s platform will evolve. It will become more stable, it will gain features, and it will get better over time.

We appreciate your patience, and we want your feedback so that we can make it better. After all, we’re building it for you. Please tell us what you think and report any bugs you encounter.

Couchsurfing is – at its heart – a community. We’re glad we were able to build this site for you, and we’re excited about what it will allow us to build for you in the future.

Thank you!

Jennifer Billock, CEO, on behalf of the entire Couchsurfing Team


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