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Back in 2010, Rachel Botsman wrote a book titled "What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption," which was one of the first popular riffs on what can happen when you meld financial uncertainty, eco-motivation, and social networking. Essentially, it looks at new methods of balancing surplus and need. There are lots of things that it just doesn't make sense for me to own -- a jigsaw or a cargo box for the roof of my car -- but are still very valuable to me the one or two times a year that I really really need them. During the last few years, we've posted about myriad new start-ups formed around the collaborative consumption idea, like Miki Krimmel's Neighborgoods. Since then, so many compelling businesses have sprung up in the sharing realm -- from Airbnb to Spinlister -- that Silicon Valley "super angel investor" wrote in The Economist that peer-to-peer markets are "the most thought-provoking sector I see developing in 2012." Of course, what's old is new. Shareable magazine, the publication-of-record on collaborative consumption, posted a fascinating article on the history of carpooling.
Ridesharing began shortly after the introduction of the Model-T, America’s first automobile priced with for the middle-class. By the end of 1914, the US had fallen into a recession at the same time it was seeing a flood of cheap new automobiles on city streets. In San Francisco, enterprising car owners began offering seats in their cars for the same price as a street car fair, known as a jitney. Within nine months, the “jitney” craze had spread all the way to Maine.
But while the sudden explosion of carpooling demonstrated its enormous potential, it also gave rise to significant backlash as irate streetcar operators fought the new form of competition with the collusion of city and regional governments. Since then, ridesharing’s popularity has typically lived or died at the mercy of government policy. By 1918, new liability regulations succeeded in reducing ridesharing by 90%.
David Pescovitz is Boing Boing's co-editor/managing partner. He's also a research director at Institute for the Future. On Instagram, he's @pesco.