As under-the-radar outlets for commodities like sex services and temporary housing get phased out of the Internet, a growing gift economy is springing up.
Craiglist has blacked out its “Adult Services” section with a “censored” sign. This follows months of pressure by courts to clean up the chaotic, lawless but endlessly entrepreneurial website. Think of Craiglist as a Silk Road of sorts where transient people are hawking everything — exotic animals, used underwear, semi-formal dates, and of course, the oldest profession, themselves.
But cleaning up the red light alleys on Craiglist isn’t the first sign of the Internet’s gentrification. This summer, the site was also squeezed by a New York law that made it illegal for most NYC apartments to function as “transient hotels.” Craigslist won’t be the only website being affected by the law; regulated sites advertising temporary rentals like AirBNB (which is completely legit, and satisfied my fussy, complaining, Asian family) and Roomorama (run by an old friend, as a matter of fact) will lose traffic.
As outlets deemed less “legit” get pushed out of the online world, we’re witnessing the rise of the gift economy. A gift economy as opposed to a “black”or “grey” market economy.
When I was still moving between DC and New York City, there’d be nights when I was stranded, crying and pleading on the phone, bracing myself for a strange night. On one of those surreal, late-night bus trips between DC and NYC, I met someone else who was also living in two places. She gave me her phone number, offered me her couch and a website.