And AirBnB is not alone. Chegg lets students rent textbooks instead of buying them; Getable is an app that helps you rent tools. Both of these are quite reasonable, useful enterprises -- yet both Getable and Chegg have jumped on the "sharing economy" bandwagon!
At best, using "sharing" when you really mean "renting" degrades the meaning of the word and introduces confusion, potentially disenchanting those who would otherwise be attracted to the sharing economy. At worst, this is a cover for seeking out occasions when people are already sharing and turning these back into monetary exchanges, the very opposite of sharing.
2. Working is now sharing!
This is an even more flabbergasting, and frankly frightening, development. Take the examples of Sidecar and Lyft. These are apps which allow you to drive your car around town, picking up passengers and taking them where they want to go, for money. Sound like a taxi? No way! This is "ridesharing." It's not like a taxi in that you don't need a taxi license or medallion, and you get paid via a "suggested donation" rather than a legally established fare... It is like a taxi in that you get paid for driving people where they want to go, and because Lyft (or Sidecar, or whichever competing service you use) takes a percentage of your income, just like Danny DeVito collected from Tony Danza and the other cabdrivers in the old tv show, Taxi...
What do Lyft and Sidecar drivers share that taxi drivers don't share? That would be much of the risk of doing business -- in fact, the companies give the drivers all the risk, they're that generous! "Ridesharing" drivers drive their own cars, use their own fuel, and pay their own insurance. And they are also the ones on the line when their pseudo-taxis get busted or when their insurance is denied after an accident because they were operating as an unlicensed taxicab.
And the taxi/ridesharing companies are not even the most extreme example of this. Consider TaskRabbit.
A TaskRabbit is an everyday person, just like a Sidecar or Lyft driver, but willing to do almost any task or chore that you have a need for. What's even better, TaskRabbits will bid against each other to do the job, so you can pick the cheapest! Goodbye minimum wage laws! No more driving down to sketchy neighborhoods to hire desperate immigrants off the street corners. TaskRabbit brings all this to you -- and takes a percentage, of course!
What is behind this urge to call working -- and not just any kind of work, but difficult, low-paying, and often dangerous work -- "sharing?" Simply put, TaskRabbit, Sidecar, Lyft and similar companies are at the forefront of the precarization of the US workforce. "Precarization" means the process of getting into a more and more precarious situation. Remember how many workers used to have unions, pensions, health insurance? And now they don't? The erosion of worker power doesn't stop there. Precarious workers lack job security, lack protections like worker's comp, unemployment benefits, health insurance, and even minimum wage laws.