There have been many websites in the last 10 years which have listed accommodations for rent but only Airbnb has been amazingly successful. Airbnb started exactly at the right time. The society embraced the rental website.
A largest barrier to renting temporary housing on Craigslist is trust – can I sleep comfortably at night knowing the home owner still has access to the room? Seller side – can I trust all of my possessions to someone I’ve emailed with twice? Airbnb tied the exchange to your real identity (Facebook Connect), with reviews and minimal online interviews (“Why are you visiting?”) to create trust amongst buyers and sellers, adding liquidity on both sides.
Airbnb built an exceptionally user-friendly site that took the pain out of discovering and booking accommodations. It’s very easy to use: No shady exchange of cash or hours spent surfing inconsistent listings on Craigslist – everything was listed in a uniform way, search/comparison is intuitive/simple, and payment is handled online.They also did an excellent job curating listings on the homepage so the site became more than “renting a spare room” and instead was about discovering cool/quirky/creative properties. They build a brand and surfing Airbnb became a leisure activity for some, but more importantly these premier listings made it socially acceptable to tell everyone you were staying at an Airbnb place and thus increased word-of-mouth.
Likely none of the above would have mattered if Airbnb rentals weren’t generally 30-80% lower than available hotels. The pricing part is an important success player.
Additionally, the experience of being in someone’s home is very different from staying in a hotel. You get a real taste of what life is like for the locals. You can get one of a kind recommendations and tips from your hosts, who are familiar with the area and who can usually give you more insightful recommendations (and more tailored to you!) than what you will find in a guidebook.