Airbnb Plus for properties that act like hotels
In 2017, while trying to explore more of Europe, we came to a conclusion in our house: Airbnb is more hassle than it's worth. Most of the time, they seem cheaper, but end up being inconvenient: perhaps the keys are difficult to get access to, the house is not clean, or there's no toilet paper.
Based on this, we essentially began to choose hotels again, which have begun to be extremely price competitive in some areas in the knowledge they're competing with rooms in people's homes. Sure, they aren't as cosy, but at least you know they're reliable.
Sensing this, Airbnb has launched a 'Plus' version of the site, a special category manually verified listings that are "guaranteed" to meet 100 different criteria — including toilet paper. The effort is designed to offer consistency to guests who, like me, grew weary of random bad experiences.
Essentially, Airbnb is making a hotel system, or at least regulating its own platform like one. To become a part of Plus, hosts must apply for the program, and if accepted a photographer will visit and inspect the home.
It's an interesting move, though leaves me wondering why not just require it for all properties? Given Airbnb's insistence that Plus properties will fetch over $200 per night, versus just $100 for others, I suspect I know the answer.
The question is whether it'll work long-term. Airbnb hasn't really shown a strong hand in terms of enforcing these types of program, and it's easy to see the standard slipping in the future if not maintained (I find it difficult to see the company keeping this consistent globally, as I assume inspectors are not employees).
There's a second problem unaddressed by all of this: serial renters. Airbnb is known for having rampant 'property investors' using the service and optimizing for money and most of us aren't using the service for that, but to find an actual home to stay in.
My home in Amsterdam is backed by an entire complex that illegally rented out and makes millions of dollars a year despite strict housing laws. As a person who lives in a heavily tourist city, it blows because the apartments are consistently occupied, often loud, and make a mess — a point I make to say that these types of places are not what people come to Airbnb for.
The line between Airbnb and hotel is quickly thinning, however the company is trying to move up-market and woo wealthier guests, while sweeping some of its problems under the rug. Still, perhaps this can pull people back, who like me have given up in favor of knowing it's OK to roll up at 1AM and check in if you choose a hotel.
With this in mind, I'd love to hear from you on Discuss whether or not you feel the same way about Airbnb these days. Sound off in this thread!
Google bets the house on RCS
Apple has iMessage, Google has... so many things. The company is betting its messaging strategy on a technology called RCS — Rich Communication Services — as its messaging strategy long-term, which piggybacks on the success of SMS and enhances it dramatically.
RCS makes it possible to deliver rich media inside messages, so if you're getting a text from your airline, they could send the boarding pass too, for example. The road for RCS has been long, and utterly boring, but Google seems to be making progress.
55 carriers are now onboard, along with almost all the OEMs of phones out there — with two notable holdouts: Xiaomi and Apple. Given Apple definitely has its own vested interest in not supporting SMS enhancements, it's unsurprising.
Still, RCS could be a very real competitor to iMessage if widely adopted. It adds useful features like typing indicators, shared user profiles, video calls (!) and it even lets you receive the messages over cellular or a plain Wi-Fi connection — it is, quite literally, the open technology successor to SMS.
To further this effort, Google is already pushing business messaging for RCS (well timed, given iMessage just got this), and is signing up partners to use it like DHL, as well as making plans to launch with Sprint in the US this year.
There's a reason you aren't hearing so much about it: you could quite literally build WhatsApp or iMessage's feature set on the back of RCS, meaning nobody would be able to claim they own messaging. If Google could successfully push this, it might have a real shot at disrupting RCS.
Companies have dragged their feet at implementing the standard thus far, but now that it's in its second iteration, it looks like there might be gas as it gains plugin support and even suggestion bubbles.
RCS, if adopted, would basically mean the end of SMS as a delivery mechanism. Unfortunately, just like Progressive Web Apps have stumbled, if Apple refuses to adopt it long-term there may be a problem as those users suddenly can't message cross-platform.
Look, this puts me to sleep too but it is exciting if it works.
Like email and SMS, if we're able to get RCS on devices from all manufacturers, basic web/app features we've come to expect will be democratized, and a basic service will get better. I'm hopeful we'll see progress this year, but not optimistic Apple will jump in until it must.
SpaceX makes a start on satellites
Eventually SpaceX hopes to offer internet access via a network of 12,000 low-Earth orbit satellites, and kicked off those ambitions yesterday by deploying two micro-satellites. Such service is years away, but could disrupt companies who need to dig cables into the ground to provide access in remote places.
Whoops: Intel didn't tell the government about flaws
Even though Alphabet revealed the Spectre and Meltdown flaws to Intel six months ago, the company sat on the news and did not disclose it to the government. Seems like the type of scale you'd want to give them a heads up about.
Amazon plans six new Go stores this year
Airpods refresh expected this year (rumor, take it with a grain of salt)