A Strong Web Community Refused to Die

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The CouchSurfing members rally to restore the website after major crash.

A virtual community can crash and die, but the people behind the data live on. On June 27th, CouchSurfing.com, the most active hospitality exchange website, where members offer their couch (or other free accommodation) to traveling members in 205 countries worldwide, experienced a major crash which resulted in the loss of most of its user database. However, with the support of its membership community and a renewed passion from its core volunteers, CouchSurfing version 2.0 returned on July 6th with a refocused mission to include more robust user participation in the maintenance and growth of the site and community.

Two days after the crash, Casey Fenton, the founder of CouchSurfing, issued a statement that the site would not be able to be rebuilt–-meaning the demise of CouchSurfing and a loss of the global network of friends. Hours after the statement was posted, Casey and “The CouchSurfing Collective,” a team of international volunteers who had already assembled in Montreal for the summer to improve the project, received thousands of emails from members worldwide pleading for the site to rebuild, and offering to participate in the reconstruction. "I was overwhelmed by all the support coming in," says Casey. "I was reminded that the CS community is not about the data, or about just surfing couches. It’s about the network and friendships that have been created. The data was dead, but the community was still very much alive."

Casey and a dozen volunteers quickly got to work. Support poured in from the community and in a matter of 4 days, the site was rebuilt from the ground up. CouchSurfing had 90,000 profiles in the database before the crash. Casey was able to painstakingly stitch together data from various earlier back-up sources, and recreate an older version of the database. Approximately 11,000 profiles were lost, many of them empty.

“CouchSurfing is the first website of its kind to be owned and operated by the community itself,” says Casey. “It’s a revolutionary concept. What seemed like a tragedy has turned into a blessing for CouchSurfing.” Weekly sign-ups of new members have more than doubled and traffic to the site has increased by 500-1000%.

Media Invitation

The Montreal “CouchSurfing Collective”, comprised of Casey Fenton, core administrators, and a pool of member-volunteers, will host a launch dinner and Q&A session on Thursday July 13th at 7pm at the Collective Headquarters located at 5556 rue Saint Denis, Montreal, Quebec.

Casey Fenton will be available in for interviews on Thursday July 13th from 1-6pm.

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Heather O'Brien