TIME Advertising

Watch AirBnB’s Touching Berlin Wall Anniversary Story

The Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989

You know communism is really dead when the Berlin Wall is being used to advertise AirBnB, the site that allows people to rent out their homes and apartments. But the 75-second ad, which marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, is surprisingly touching.

Wall and Chain” is the story of an old man, Jörg, who served as a guard on the West side of the wall many years ago. He’s haunted by his experience, until his daughter Cathrine takes him back to Berlin to visit his old home. When they meet their AirBnB host, Kai, they find out that he was once a guard on the East side of the wall, and Jörg is finally able to let go of his past. And while few other companies saw an advertising opportunity in the dark past of a divided city, AirBnB was able to turn history into a heartwarming animated short.

(MORE: See an interactive timeline of the Berlin wall)

 

MONEY sharing economy

New York Attorney General Says Airbnb Is Making Millions on Illegal Listings

Airbnb
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

A report from the state Attorney general claims Airbnb has made $40 million on illegal rentals, and that 70% of Airbnb's New York City listings violate the law.

If there’s one thing that divides New Yorkers, it’s Airbnb. As New York Magazine’s definitive feature on the do-it-yourself hotel service pointed out, the city is split between those who see Airbnb as an innocent way for New Yorkers to transform their overpriced housing assets into some extra scratch, and those who blame the company for turning their apartment buildings into unregulated crashpads for rag-tag out-of-towners.

On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman provided the anti-Airbnb camp with more fodder when he accused Airbnb of making $40 million on illegal listings over the past three and a half years. As The New York Post writes, that number is based on a new report from Schneiderman’s office that also estimates 70% of Airbnb’s New York City listings are illegal.

Under New York state law, renters are allowed to sublet their apartment on Airbnb (assuming their lease permits it), but must be physically present while subtenants are there. Conventional landlords, meanwhile, are barred from leasing an apartment for fewer than 30 days — precisely to prevent residential buildings from being turned into unregulated hotels. The Attorney General’s report, which looked at Airbnb bookings from the start of 2010 to June of this year, says the vast majority of the site’s listing are not private citizens monetizing a spare room, but lessors renting out multiple apartments at a time.

Specifically, the Attorney General’s office found more than 100 landlords who used Airbnb to rent out more than 10 apartments each. These owners alone accounted for 47,103 reservations and took in almost $60 million in revenue. One particularly ambitious landlord accounted for 272 unique listings and made $6.8 million off 3,024 reservations. Schneiderman also complained that Airbnb users rarely, if ever, pay the city’s 14.7% hotel occupancy tax and the site has not tried to collect that tax from any of the transactions reviewed by his office.

Concerns over illegal listings are not a new issue for Airbnb. In September, New York Magazine reported on the ongoing fight between the company and New York State Senator Liz Krueger over regulations for the nascent apartment sharing industry. While Airbnb argues that their service enables average folks to pay their rent, the Attorney General’s office has countered that the site’s average “power-user” is making $500,000 a year renting at least 10 different residencies. “[They’re] hardly making ends meet,” a spokesman for the office told the magazine.

Airbnb responded to the report by urging regulators against overreaction. “We should not deny thousands of New Yorkers the chance to share their homes, pay their bills and stay in the city they love,” said the company in statement to the Post. “We need to work together on some sensible rules that stop bad actors and protect regular people who simply want to share the home in which they live.”

 

 

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Because of America’s unique relationship with Liberia, we have an obligation to help fight the Ebola outbreak there.

By James Ciment in Slate

2. Medical research often doesn’t account for different ethnicities, and underrepresented groups suffer.

By Estaban G. Burchard in Nature

3. One way to head off sexual violence in professional sports: start with high school coaches.

By Libby Nelson in Vox

4. Beyond the sharing economy: Is “reputation” the next important currency?

By Heather Schlegel on CNN

5. Powerful protests over climate change target corporations – and new leadership is needed to restore faith in capitalism.

By Judith Samuelson in the Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME privacy

Airbnb Sued by Group of Users in New York City for Breach of Privacy

Airbnb Said to Be Raising Funding At $10 Billion Valuation
The Airbnb application and logo are displayed on an Apple iPhone in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2014 Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The company released user data to New York City authorities investigating suspected violations of housing and rental laws

Around 25 people with apartments listed on the online accommodation-sharing website Airbnb are suing the company to prevent what they claim is a breach of their privacy.

Calling themselves “New Yorkers Making Ends Meet in the Sharing Economy,” the group filed a lawsuit against Airbnb in the state supreme court on Tuesday to prevent the firm sharing their private information with state attorney general Eric Schneiderman.

A source familiar with the case told Mashable that Airbnb furnished the attorney general with information on 107 of its New York City users including payment details, hosts and listing IDs as well as their names and contact information.

The release on Tuesday was the first under an agreement between the two parties reached in May, in which the company agreed to provide anonymous information about thousands of hosts in order to investigate suspected violations of the local rental law.

City authorities requested more information on some 130 users, but Airbnb declined to provide details of those who had filed lawsuits until the case was resolved.

“We will not take action with data from hosts who have previously filed suit until the court makes a decision and we will respect the court’s decision,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said, after clarifying that the users whose data had been subpoenaed were notified by the company.

Airbnb had successfully fought the city’s previous demand in court, which asked for unfettered access to data on thousands of users. This was followed by the updated agreement and the transfer of the anonymous data.

[Mashable]

TIME legal

Airbnb Hands Over Data on 124 Hosts in New York City to the Authorities

Airbnb'S Value Estimated At $10 Billion After New Round Of Investments
The Airbnb app is displayed on a smartphone on April 21, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The New York attorney general is seeking those who “flagrantly" misused the online platform

Airbnb has announced that it is handing over the personal information of 124 past and present hosts to the New York attorney general.

The online accommodation company said on Friday that the vast majority of the hosts were no longer on its site and the total is “far less than 1%” of its hosting community in the Big Apple.

“Nothing about these hosting profiles suggests [the attorney general] is after anyone but individuals who may be flagrantly misusing our platform,” said David Hantman, head of global policy for Airbnb, in a blog post on Friday.

The New York City battle for user information began last year. Attorney general Eric Schneiderman sent the first subpoena in October, requesting data on Airbnb’s hosts for the previous three years. Airbnb resisted but also reiterated its commitment to cooperate with authorities and eliminate illegal hotels and guesthouses. The San Francisco–based company then wiped out more than 2,000 listings in April.

The recent release of personal data followed the New York attorney general’s second subpoena for hosts’ information in May. Airbnb agreed to hand over “anonymized data” for about 16,000 hosts in New York. The office of the attorney general would then have a year to review the information and draft a list of individuals who are subject to further investigation. This means it’s possible that additional requests for user information are made in the months to come.

Airbnb says it has already contacted the 124 hosts concerned about the matter.

MONEY Tech

6 Horrible Things the Sharing Economy Is Being Accused Of

A Lyft car drives along Powell Street on June 12, 2014 in San Francisco, California.
Lyft, the ride-sharing company known for its iconic pink mustaches, is involved in what's called "Tech's Fiercest Rivalry" with competing service Uber. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

You'd think that businesses that are part of something dubbed the "sharing economy" would play nice. Well, think again.

While sharing economy businesses such as Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, and TaskRabbit were created with the idea of connecting people and empowering individuals as entrepreneurs, they were also designed to disrupt existing business models. That process can be ugly, as it occasionally wreaks havoc not only on big industries like hotels and taxis, but also on how people make a living and where they can afford to live.

There’s an argument to be made that the sharing economy is not really about sharing at all. Rather, it’s a semi-regulated, tech-enabled, blatantly capitalistic peer-to-peer business model. Sure, it helps people earn a few bucks or get services cheaper than usual, but we must admit that the model can be brutally cut-throat in the way seemingly everything and everyone is monetized. Given such, it’s not all that surprising that sharing economy businesses are being blamed for some pretty nasty stuff lately. For example:

Sabotaging Each Other
The Wall Street Journal described the battle of ride-sharing competitors Uber and Lyft as “Tech’s Fiercest Rivalry” due to tactics such as giving cash bonuses (up to $1,000) to recruit drivers away from each other. In a particularly ugly turn, Lyft accused Uber of booking—then cancelling—more than 5,500 rides since last October, just to mess with Lyft drivers and the company in general. (Uber denied Lyft’s claims.)

Price Gouging
This summer, Uber agreed to limit surge pricing during natural disasters and emergencies, but that doesn’t mean its hated price hikes during peak demand have gone entirely away. Fans who attended a recent music festival in San Francisco were subjected to surge pricing that was five times the normal rate, meaning a short Uber ride through town cost hundreds of dollars, Valleywag reported.

Inviting Squatters and Scammers into Your Home
Following in the footsteps of an Airbnb host being disturbed by renters holding an orgy in his apartment, there’s the story of an Airbnb host being outraged by squatters who refused to leave (or pay) for their rental.

Wrecking the Housing Market
Critics say that Airbnb rentals turn homes and apartments into quasi-hotels, and landlords in desirable, touristy destinations such as San Francisco and Marfa, Texas are being accused of evicting long-term tenants so that units can be used as more lucrative short-term rentals. The sharing economy pioneer has also been linked to soaring rent and housing prices in general, and also the idea that the comfortable atmosphere in apartment buildings and entire neighborhoods is being destroyed by the presence of too many loud, unruly tourists.

Illegal Currency Trading
A group of taxi companies in India has accused Uber of violating local laws for credit card transactions. It is against the law for Indian citizens to conduct business in India using a foreign currency, and that’s what the group is saying is happening every time someone there uses Uber.

Ruining Wages, and Not Only for Taxi Drivers
Cab drivers are the ones who have been most up in arms about the way rideshare upstarts like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have been disrupting their livelihoods by wooing away customers. But the brutally competitive nature of these businesses and the sharing economy in general has been causing trouble for other workers as well—like Uber and Lyft drivers themselves.

Professional UberX drivers supposedly earn $90,000 per year in New York City, but that figure doesn’t factor in many business expenses, including parking, gas, insurance, or the maintenance of one’s vehicle. And as rideshare companies engaged in price wars recently, some drivers have seen their wages cut significantly.

The dark side of the sharing economy is that it commoditizes all sorts of skills, services, and workers overall, and puts downward pressure on how valuable they are. The recent changes at TaskRabbit, the peer-to-peer site where people can book (and offer to handle) outsourced chores, has resulted in something of a race to the bottom in terms of money people can earn, mostly because it has become more difficult to beat out the competition for gigs.

[UPDATE: TaskRabbit reached out to clarify that it recently adopted a minimum rate of $11.20 per hour for the tasks coordinated on its site. The company points out that the rate is much higher than any state’s minimum wage.]

In a vehemently pro-sharing economy column published this summer by the New York Times’ Tom Friedman—it was was more or less an extended interview with Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky—Chesky envisioned a future in which people multitasked at several jobs rather than serving as employees of a single company. “You may have many jobs and many different kinds of income, and you will accumulate different reputations, based on peer reviews, across multiple platforms of people,” Chesky said. “You may start by delivering food, but as an aspiring chef you may start cooking your own food and delivering that and eventually you do home-cooked meals and offer a dining experience in your own home.”

This vision sorta makes it sound like one day we’ll all be TaskRabbits, hopping from gig to gig and competing against other taskers at every step. This is cause for concern. To quote a notable recent headline: “If TaskRabbit Is the Future of Employment, the Employed Are F***ed.” A New York Times story published this past weekend that followed the day-to-day existence of some sharing economy “microentrepreneurs” shows that this vision of the future has already arrived for many workers–and the reality is one of grim uncertainty and tough competition.

As for drivers operating taxis or rideshare cars, well, they have more to worry about than diminishing wages. Not long ago, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick made it clear that down the road, he expects that Uber will not employ any drivers at all. Instead, rides will be provided by self-driving cars. And presumably, all the people who would otherwise be drivers will have to jump into the scrum and compete with the rest of the rabbits for whatever work is available.

MONEY Bitcoin

Uber, Airbnb, and Others May Soon Accept Bitcoin

Bitcoin
Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

Customers may soon be able to use bitcoin for a variety of web services if a new deal involving an Ebay-owned payment processor goes through.

Bitcoin fans, rejoice. A new deal between a Paypal subsidiary and digital currency companies may soon allow customers to pay for Uber, Airbnb, Opentable, and other services with digital currency.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Braintree, a payment processor Ebay acquired last year, is in negotiations with businesses like Coinbase that allow consumers to store, buy, and send bitcoin, a digital currency that can be either “mined” using computing power or purchased with dollars. Braintree is currently part of Ebay’s Paypal unit. If these negotiations are successful, Braintree’s clients would be able to accept bitcoin payments.

If Braintree does enable clients to start taking bitcoin, they would not be the first to do so. Overstock.com was the first large company to accept bitocoin payments; and Dell, technology retailer Newegg, and satellite TV provider Dish Network, have all followed suit. Most of these services have also partnered with Coinbase.

While the currency has seen increased adoption, not all developments have been positive. In July, New York’s Department of Financial Services proposed new rules for virtual currency businesses that sought to reduce illegal activity—which bitcoin has previously facilitated—and increase consumer protections for the currency’s users. While some have lauded the rules as an important first step toward making bitcoin a viable currency, other bitcoin advocates slammed the regulations for eliminating bitcoin’s anonymity and their arduous requirements on certain businesses.

Bitcoin has also not fared well in terms of price. After the value of one bitcoin (BTC) peaked at over $1,100 in late 2013, its price has come crashing back to earth. As of today, one BTC is worth $512; down from $747 at the beginning of this year.

TIME Transportation

Uber Rolls Out ‘Uber for Business’ To Help You Expense Rides

Barcelona Cabs Strike Against Uber Taxi App
In this photo illustration, the smartphone app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location on July 1, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. David Ramos—Getty Images

Uber doesn’t want to be just a service for people on vacations or late-night benders — the company is launching a new business portal to target customers traveling for work.

The new platform, called Uber for Business, will let companies set up corporate accounts through which employees can charge their rides directly to their employers rather than having to keep track of receipts.

“A centralized billing system helps administrators, team leads and small business owners by providing trip information in place of receipts and helps employees by connecting with the same safe, reliable Uber ride they are used to without the hassle of having to file expenses,” Uber said in a Tuesday blog post announcing the new feature.

In addition, Uber has partnered with Concur, the corporate expenses management company, to include Uber rides directly in Concur’s expense options. Concur’s 25 million users will be able to link their Uber and Concur accounts and add Uber charges to their expense reports seamlessly.

The new focus on business could help Uber tap into a large pool of wealthier customers. The startup is growing fast and recently earned a valuation of $17 billion.

Airbnb, another hot startup that lets people rent out their homes to guests, announced a similar business portal on Monday aimed at corporate travelers.


TIME Travel

13 Celebrity Homes You Can Rent

Denzel Washington and Jimmy Page have lived in this Malibu estate Airbnb

From NYC to Los Angeles, famous celebrity-home listings that provide A-list vacations—entourage not included

Are stars just like us? It doesn’t feel that way when gazing at some celebrity’s multimillion-dollar estate through the window of a star-map tour bus.

But thanks to the rise of peer-to-peer vacation rental sites, staying in a legend’s current or former home is now sometimes just a click away. These properties offer travelers the chance to live vicariously—and, sure, lavishly.

Denzel Washington/Jimmy Page: Malibu, CA

Celebrity history runs deep at this estate, infamous for its parties in the ’60s and ’70s. (According to the current owners: “Captain & Tennille, a pop music duo from the 1970s, were one of the first occupants and lived here, we were told, with a chimpanzee.”) Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the three-bedroom, three-building property with natural light. It sprawls over eight acres up in the bluffs overlooking Broad and Zuma beaches; some guests have reported seeing dolphins and breaching whales. $490 per night with a two-night minimum; airbnb.com.

Jim Morrison: West Hollywood, CA

Rocker Jim Morrison slept here—and gave interviews, jammed on his guitar, and wrote poetry. His former home is decked out with The Doors memorabilia, vintage furniture, and a bit of retro ’60s style: beads hanging in a doorway, a trippy floral shower curtain, colorfully painted walls. The two-bedroom is a short walk from the Sunset Strip. $3,180 with a 30-night minimum; airbnb.com.

Bode Miller: Carroll, NH

Olympic skier Bode Miller and his wife, Morgan Beck, a professional beach volleyball player, own this cozy estate in New Hampshire’s ski-resort territory. Beck tweeted about the home in 2013 and touts its “gorgeous views of Mount Washington.” Guests can also expect stone fireplaces, deep-soaking tubs, hand-carved wood furnishings, leather sofas, and four bedrooms that accommodate up to 10. $800 per night with a two-night minimum; airbnb.com.

Paula Deen: Tybee Island, GA

Y’all Come Inn includes, naturally, with a stellar kitchen stocked with all of Paula’s cookbooks—one of which will be signed for guests as a souvenir. The 2,000-square-foot house also features three cheery bedrooms and a front porch with picnic-table seating. It’s located on Tybee Island, 20 miles from Savannah and four blocks from the beach. It’s a neighborhood that’s also attracted homeowners John Mellencamp and Sandra Bullock. $295 per night with a two-night minimum; vrbo.com.

Bing Crosby: Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs has attracted enough legendary residents (among them Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra) to inspire multiple celebrity-home tours. For a truly immersive experience, settle in to Bing Crosby’s 1934 hacienda in the old Movie Colony. The Spanish-style four-bedroom villa has the original tiled floors, vaulted ceilings, and a wood-burning fireplace. Modern amenities include a projector in the screening room as well as an updated kitchen. You’ll be tempted out of doors by the heated pool, surrounded by bougainvillea and citrus trees. $675 per night with a three-night minimum; airbnb.com.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE.

More from Travel + Leisure:

 

MONEY Travel

Marriott’s CEO Just Made a Pretty Good Sales Pitch for … Airbnb?

Apartment in Barcelona, Spain offered through airbnb.
Apartment in Barcelona, Spain offered through airbnb. courtesy of airbnb

Take it from the CEO of one of the world's largest hotel companies: If you want to sample an authentic neighborhood when traveling, go with an airbnb rental, not a hotel.

The hotel industry has an uneasy relationship with the peer-to-peer lodging rental giant airbnb. Lawmakers and hotel industry lobbyists have attacked the airbnb model, accusing hosts of operating illegal hotels that don’t meet safety code regulations, and that more often than not aren’t paying taxes like they should. Data cited recently by The Economist indicates that in cities where airbnb has established a significant presence, the revenues at budget hotels decreased by 5% over a two-year period ending in December 2013. And the amount of business taken away from low-end hotels by airbnb could increase to an estimated 10% by 2016.

At the same time, people in the hotel business—particularly the midlevel and higher-end hotel business—tend to be pretty dismissive of airbnb. If folks in this world talk about airbnb and sharing economy businesses at all, it’s generally to argue that these upstarts or “disruptors” are not legitimate threats to established hotel industry players.

That’s pretty much what Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson first had to say about airbnb during an appearance on CBS This Morning this week. When asked about airbnb, Sorenson dismissively described the service as an “interesting experiment” that was “fun to watch.” It’s like what Starbucks would say of a kid who opens up a lemonade stand in front of one of its cafes: cute, but nothing whatsoever to worry about. What Sorenson said airbnb certainly was not was a genuine competitor to Marriott. By extension, he’s saying it’s not a threat to the rest of the big hotel brands out there either.

As the conversation continued, however, Sorenson wound up pointing out several of airbnb’s unique, attractive attributes—features that a regular hotel can’t compete with. “They do some things that we can’t do,” Sorenson said of airbnb. While tourist hotels tend to be found strictly in tourist areas, an airbnb rental is located, by definition, in a neighborhood where real people live. An airbnb rental is a way of trying a neighborhood on for size, without making the commitment of actually renting or buying. Referring to Manhattan, Sorenson said the thinking is, “I want to live in the East Village for a while, or I want to live in the Upper East Side for a while, and see what it feels like.”

The attraction of an airbnb rental isn’t limited to people curious about living in a given city, Sorenson said. Plenty of travelers visiting cities strictly as tourists want a taste of the authentic neighborhood life as well. “Some people love it, not just millennials but boomers” as well, said Sorenson. The mentality is: “I want to experience a neighborhood, even if I’m on vacation.”

There, in a nutshell, is one of the great arguments for skipping a hotel in favor of renting a room, apartment, or entire house from a random stranger. The other big argument, of course, is cost. An airbnb rental will almost always cost significantly less than a hotel offering around the same space for a visitor. A Priceonomics.com study published last summer showed that compared to hotels, on average, you’d save 21% by renting an entire apartment on airbnb, and 50% by renting just a room from an airbnb host.

Despite Sorenson’s comments, we probably don’t have to worry about him secretly being on airbnb’s payroll. After praising some aspects of its “interesting” model, he made it clear that sharing lodging with a stranger “is not everybody’s cup of tea,” and that many travelers “don’t want the creepiness of not knowing who my host will be.”

He also gave a plug to Marriott’s new hotel brand, Moxy, which the company designed with IKEA for millennial travelers. “We want to make sure that we have brands with increasing levels of affordability,” said Sorenson. “One of our newest brands, for instance, is Moxy, a brand we’ll open in Milan for the first time this year. It’s a reinvention of the economy lodge segment.”

The Moxy concept is aimed at young connected travelers who want a social atmosphere. Interestingly, that also happens to be a pretty good description of the typical airbnb traveler. And “a reinvention of the economy lodge segment”? That’s a phrase that sounds like it could have been pulled directly from the airbnb website.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser