This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on weekdays.
There are certain inevitable in the digital world. One is that middlemen like Uber and DoorDash are more likely to be hated by those who use them.
But Airbnb has another, possibly more difficult, problem. Even if you never use Airbnb, you can still hate it because tenants in the house next door throw loud parties or your quiet town gets overrun with tourists every weekend.
That grudge is a mystery to both Airbnb, which on Monday released details for its first public offering of shares, and the future of our communities. (Read more about Airbnb's prospects and plans from my colleague Erin Griffith.)
One of the great inventions of the internet is that almost anyone looking to sell or rent something can find millions of potential customers on Airbnb, Uber, Apple's App Store, Grubhub, or Amazon's online bazaar. These and other websites act like middlemen, connecting people and businesses with buyers like me, usually for 15 to 30 percent commission on every sale.
These connector companies have defined the Internet age, as have the conflicts that have sprung up when Uber drivers, app developers, Amazon sellers, and others who rely on middlemen start to fret about them for asking too much , make unfair rules and get rich from their jobs, or all of the above.
Airbnb is also a digital middleman, but the grudges seem different. Yes, there are some of the common problems faced by both homeowners and tenants. But Airbnb also has another set of resentments that may not hate it less, but hate it differently, in ways that may be more difficult for the company to resolve.
Airbnb's biggest problem isn't necessarily the resentment of people who use it, but rather the resentment of people who don't. That's unusual.
If restaurants hate handing over high fees to delivery app companies like DoorDash, or if people post something on Care.com that turns out to be incompetent babysitters, it doesn't necessarily affect people outside of those transactions. With a few exceptions, hatred of middlemen is usually limited to those who buy or sell goods or services through those service providers.
But if there are destructive parties or shootouts going on in a home that's rented on Airbnb, it can infuriate the neighbors at the company. This is true even if municipalities or cities believe that Airbnb rentals are contributing to unwanted tourist flows or rising property prices. In some cases, Airbnb can be a scapegoat for gentrification or other neighborhood issues.
Airbnb knows this, and the company has paid close attention to cities and regulators concerned that it's making neighborhoods and communities worse. In the financial document for its stock offering, Airbnb included several pages explaining multiple city restrictions on Airbnb listings and the company's efforts to promote "responsible home sharing" and "healthy" tourism.
The tricky thing is that middlemen can try to change their activities to counter resentment from restaurants, app makers, Instacart buyers, or other business partners. However, it's harder for Airbnb to resolve the hatred of people who don't work with the company at all.
(Full disclosure: my sister works for a hotel union that is pushing for stricter regulation on Airbnb.)
The permanent record Internet no longer rules
I've read all of the teasing and goofy jokes (on Twitter) about a new Twitter feature called Fleets that allows users to post something that will be automatically deleted after 24 hours. In other words, it gives people the opportunity to tweet without a hangover.
But the changing internet behind this ridiculously named feature has a deeper meaning.
Twitter started testing fleets in some countries earlier this year and it will be available to everyone soon.
My colleague Mike Isaac wrote that the disappearance of Tweets "could make it easier for people to communicate without worrying about scrutinizing their posts."
This function doesn't matter, but also. There are tons of other internet properties out there – including Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest – with some versions of posts that are automatically deleted. And I don't know how many people will be using fleets. I can't even type the name without rolling my eyes.
But all of these vanished copycat messages reveal something about our evolving attitudes toward digital life. You reject the concept of a permanent online archive.
For people of a certain age – including, um, me – using Myspace, Friendster, and Facebook was a bit like a journal in the 2000s, though one that people could see. When I leaf through my Facebook account, I can see old birthday parties and weekend getaways. I had a lot more fun back then and it's nice to have nostalgia on hand.
But we know the downsides of permanent online recording. Stupid stuff people did as teenagers could lurk online and keep them from getting a job later. And one of Snapchat's biggest ideas was that when people know something isn't online forever, they act differently. People feel freer to post a goofy dance video without trying to get it perfect.
This can be great or encourage people to say what they want without fear of the consequences. Just as the permanent record Internet has serious disadvantages, the short-lived Internet also has serious disadvantages.
Before we go …
When wrong ideas win: An independent research found that since the US elections, right-wing news channels making unsubstantiated claims of widespread electoral fraud have received a greater proportion of views among conservative YouTube channels, while video views for Fox News have declined, my colleague Dai Wakabayashi writes.
And a former conservative media creator, Matthew Sheffield, told my colleague Adam Satariano that he now believes that right-wing media, through sites like Facebook and YouTube, have created an environment in which a large part of the population believes in a "different reality." ”
Lessons from the digital economy: A comprehensive analysis of the impact of technology on American workers found that the wage gap between the affluent and everyone else was greater than in most other industrialized nations, reports my colleague Steve Lohr. The research recommended policy changes, including raising the minimum wage, changing corporate tax laws, and emphasizing vocational training to meet business demand.
Prime Lipitor and Prime EpiPen: Amazon, which bought an online pharmacy company in 2018, is now starting selling prescription home delivery drugs through its website and app, technology news release Recode reports. One big question remains unanswered: How much more could Amazon delve into America's chaotic but lucrative healthcare system?
This cat is dancing from "Flashdance".
We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you would like us to explore. You can reach us at [email protected]
If you do not have this newsletter in your inbox yet, please register here.