There seems to be no clear definition of the term ‘sharing economy’, asstated by Schor (2014), Koopman, Mitchell, and Thierer (2015), and Martin(2015), among others. The term is mostly seen as an umbrella term that covers multipledevelopments and technologies, which endorse sharing the consumption of goodsand services through online platforms (Hamari, Sjöklint, & Ukkonen, 2014). Thesharing economy is also known as the ‘collaborative economy’, the’peer-production economy’, or the ‘peer-to-peer economy’ (Koopman et al.
,2015). The word ‘sharing economy’ itself, and these synonyms, emphasize thepresence of individuals that gather on a platform to collaborate with eachother. Well-known examples of digital platforms within the sharing economyinclude Uber for cab rides, Airbnb for short-term home rental, eBay forconsumer goods, and TaskRabbit for services. Individuals can, on the shortterm, rent their vehicles that would otherwise not be used, or rent out sparerooms in their home, and consumers can rent goods at lower costs than through atraditional provider of such goods (Zervas et al., 2014).
The sharing economyhas come up rapidly and set quite some transformations in motion. It haschanged the way people commute, shop, vacation, and borrow (Koopman et al.,2015). Koopmanet al. (2015, pp.
531-532) present five ways in which the sharing economy isuseful and creates value: “(1) by giving people an opportunity to use others’cars, kitchens, apartments, and other property, it allows underutilized assetsor “dead capital” to be put to more productive use; (2) by bringing togethermultiple buyers and sellers, it makes both the supply and demand sides of itsmarkets more competitive and allows greater specialization; (3) by lowering thecost of finding willing traders, haggling over terms, and monitoringperformance, it cuts transaction costs and expands the scope of trade; (4) byaggregating the reviews of past consumers and producers and putting them at thefingertips of new market participants, it can significantly diminish theproblem of asymmetric information between producers and consumers; and (5) byoffering an “end-run” around regulators who are captured by existing producers,it allows suppliers to create value for customers long underserved by thoseincumbents that have become inefficient and unresponsive because of theirregulatory protections.” Despite the value it creates,the sharing economy has also had a disruptive effect on long-establishedindustries, like Airbnb is said to create a revenue challenge for the hotelindustry (Koopman et al., 2015; Forgacs & Dimanche, 2016). The sharingeconomy has made it difficult for policymakers to regulate the new markets anddynamics that it creates (Koopman et al., 2015). When market circumstanceschange dramatically, as Koopman et al. state, evolvement of policy for theseparticular circumstances is called for.
Some regulations that are appropriate fortraditional markets, for example, may be harmful for consumer welfare in thesharing economy with regard to competition and innovation, among other things.Besides accusations of business disruption, the sharing economy has faced discussionon employment status and labor exploitation (Kalleberg & Dunn, 2016).Kalleberg and Dunn state, for example, that some argue the ‘gig jobs’ in thesharing economy “leave workers open to exploitation and low wages as employerscompete in a race to the bottom” (p.10).
The authors do go on to argue that thereality is more nuanced, and the economy creates both good and bad jobs (pp.10-11). TaskRabbit,a popular digital platform for sharing skills and services, is just a smallpart of the multi-billion dollar sharing economy, but it is an interesting one.The way the platform works is that so-called ‘Task Posters’ create listings fortasks that they want completed, and ‘Task Rabbits’ or ‘Taskers’ bid for thechance to execute these tasks for their desired level of compensation. As such,it functions as a shared labor market (Schor & Fitzmaurice, 2014). Schorand Fitzmaurice state that, in essence, TaskRabbit monetizes the traditionalsharing relationships of neighbours, and expands these practices to strangers. Theplatform earns money by taking a cut of each transaction for itself, as sort ofa service fee for the client (Aloisi, 2016).
Within the dynamics of thisdigital platform exists an intriguing novel way to exchange and share assetsthat are underutilized. In this case, individuals with surplus time offer theirskills to those in need of a service (Schor & Fitzmaurice, 2014). Theplatform has often been mentioned in academic literature as an example of a sharingplatform in the sharing economy. Information on the way in which TaskRabbit specificallycontributes to the bringing together of consumers and sellers is sparselyavailable in current literature, however.