Sharing Means Renting?: An Entire-Marketplace Analysis of Airbnb

In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM on Web Science Conference. 131-139

9 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2017 Last revised: 14 Jul 2017

See all articles by Qing Ke

Qing Ke

Indiana University Bloomington

Date Written: May 21, 2017


Airbnb, an online marketplace for accommodations, has experienced a staggering growth accompanied by intense debates and scattered regulations around the world. Current discourses, however, are largely focused on opinions rather than empirical evidences. Here, we aim to bridge this gap by presenting the first large-scale measurement study on Airbnb, using a crawled data set containing 2.3 million listings, 1.3 million hosts, and 19.3 million reviews. We measure several key characteristics at the heart of the ongoing debate and the sharing economy. Among others, we find that Airbnb has reached a global yet heterogeneous coverage. The majority of its listings across many countries are entire homes, suggesting that Airbnb is actually more like a rental marketplace rather than a spare-room sharing platform. Analysis on star-ratings reveals that there is a bias toward positive ratings, amplified by a bias toward using positive words in reviews. The extent of such bias is greater than Yelp reviews, which were already shown to exhibit a positive bias. We investigate a key issue - commercial hosts who own multiple listings on Airbnb - repeatedly discussed in the current debate. We find that their existence is prevalent, they are early-movers towards joining Airbnb, and their listings are disproportionately entire homes and located in the US. Our work advances the current understanding of how Airbnb is being used and may serve as an independent and empirical reference to inform the debate.

Keywords: Airbnb, sharing economy, online marketplace, peer-to-peer market

Suggested Citation

Ke, Qing, Sharing Means Renting?: An Entire-Marketplace Analysis of Airbnb (May 21, 2017). In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM on Web Science Conference. 131-139. Available at SSRN: or

Qing Ke (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington ( email )

919 E. 10th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408
United States

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