Airbnb Isn’t Resting When It Comes to Rolling Out New Security Features

After apologizing to its community earlier this week and pledging to do better, Airbnb has continued rolling out a steady stream of new security features that are designed to make it safer for people to rent out their homes to complete strangers.

The latest update includes three recommendations that were pulled from Airbnb’s suggestion box, where members are able to float ideas to the company that could make the platform safer or easier to use.

According to the company’s blog post, the top three features people asked for were: Making profile pictures for potential guests mandatory; being able to decline a guest without it dinging your ranking; and allowing hosts to rate users after a stay (which already existed, but apparently was not easy to use).

Airbnb, which has listings in 16,500 cities worldwide, came under intense scrutiny over the past few weeks after one of its hosts had her place completely trashed and burglarized.

The situation snowballed out of control when consumers questioned whether Airbnb handled the situation correctly.

On Monday, Airbnb apologized and announced a $50,000 guarantee that will protect the property of hosts who book through its Web site, a new 24-hour customer hotline and an in-house task force dedicated to reviewing listings for suspicious activity. Members are also invited to contact the CEO directly at brian.chesky@airbnb.com.

On Wednesday, it introduced the ability to connect your profile to LinkedIn and Twitter, which can help build your reputation or validate your identity. It also launched a feature called Photobooth, which will allow members to take profile pictures using their webcams directly inside Airbnb.

But before any of this, I had the chance to ask Jeff Jordan, one of Airbnb’s new investors, about whether he was concerned over issues of safety and trust. Jordan is the newest general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, which contributed half of the company’s $112 million round of funding.

Jordan, who is a former executive at eBay and PayPal, knows a lot about building online marketplaces in which two people interact and pay each other for goods and services. Those companies, too, had a steep learning curve for getting it right, he said.

In the same way that those companies have largely earned trust with consumers, he’s confident that Airbnb can do the same.

“I do know that Airbnb is highly focused on providing a safe environment. It’s not foolproof, but there have been very few cases like this,” he said. “In the Airbnb case, they collect personal information on the host and the guest, which includes payment information — which is pretty individually specific information.”

Other recommendations submitted to the suggestion box include Skype introductions, mandatory deposits, and a requirement that international guests supply a copy of their passport.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work