I was familiar with couchsurfing as a term for finding couches to sleep on, usually during travels. But I wasn’t aware of Couchsurfing.com. As the name suggests, its a web service connecting couchsurfers with couches and with those willing to lend them.
It turns out that it’s rather more than that. It’s also a social network. Moreover, an article in Good magazine (via Reddit) makes the argument that Couchsurfing is one of the more impressive social networks. I tend to agree with the statement that “the utopian promise of internet networking—the ability to leap across the previously inviolable social boundaries of school or town or country or culture—is far from being met… we’re not really finding new people to connect with; we’re talking to the people we already know.”
In contrast, Couchsurfing seems to have fostered many new relationships spanning social boundaries, particularly country boundaries. Its interactions include meeting in person in the home of one of the people involved. That sounds deeper than a thrown sheep or a 140-word tweet (and yes, I do find it hard to resist digs at Facebook and Twitter, and Digg for that matter).
The article isn’t only about the upside of Couchsurfing. Nevertheless, it does support its conclusion. “CouchSurfing, for all its problems, might well be an example of an online social network that actually works.”