Think collaborative consumption is newfangled? Think again!

We’ve been sharing stuff for a really, really long time. The difference now is how we’re leveraging stuff like technology and disruptive business models to quickly and massively scale collaborative consumption.

Check out these examples—many of the “before” examples here are borderline nostalgia:

Borrowing books

library as collaborative consumptionBefore: Libraries
Libraries are one of the most ancient forms of collaborative consumption, with archaeological evidence from the Tigris-Euphrates region dating as far back as 1900BC.

Now: The Internet and Ebooks
We still have libraries filled with books and bookshelves and librarians, but when was the last time you went? Compare that with the last time you went online to read a Wikipedia entry, Project Gutenberg ebook or a blog article (like the one you’re reading now).

Renting movies

renting movies as collaborative consumptionBefore: Video Stores
First we had neighborhood video stores stocked-piled with VHS and Beta tapes. Then that got killed off by DVDs, and now we have Blu-Ray, and soon—3D.

Now: Streaming Video
Thanks to faster internet, better computers, cheaper storage, digital files, instant downloads, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Blockbuster streaming—what’s the sense of using any kind of physical movie format?

Doing your laundry

laundromat as collaborative consumptionBefore: Laundromats
There’s nothing like hauling your dirty clothes down the sidewalk into a room full of strangers, washing and drying said clothes, then folding them—underwear and all.

Now: Laundromats and Laundry Locker
Until we figure out a way to digitize clothes washing, laundromats are here to stay—especially in urban areas where dwelling space is limited. However, one emerging alternative is Laundry Locker, where you can leave your dirty clothes in a locker, then retrieve them clean the next day.

Taking a trip

timeshare as collaborative consumptionBefore: Timeshares
Timeshares have been around since the 1960s—you pay a fee for part-ownership or the right to use a condo for a certain length of time during the year.

Now: Airbnb, Inspirato and Couchsurfing
Now that we’ve built online tools to create communities of trust, we’re able to rent other people’s properties. Vacationing in a house through Airbnb is way more convenient, flexible and affordable—overall less friction than the traditional timeshare model.

Buying used stuff

salvation army as collaborative consumption exampleBefore: Thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets
You have to admit—it’s still fun to meander around and discover little treasures at a second-hand sale, where variety is good and price is cheap.

Now: eBay, Craigslist and Zaarly (and more)
Now imagine all of that but with unlimited variety and the super-competitive. That’s what peer-to-peer marketplace services like eBay started, followed by Craigslist and now social sharing platforms like NeighborGoodsZilok and Zaarly. Plus you don’t have to leave home or spend time haggling prices, especially if that’s not your thing.

Catching a ride

subway as collaborative consumption exampleThen: taxis, public transportation and carpooling
Like libraries, shared transportation has been around for a long time. Even before motorized conveyance, we had stagecoaches, ferries and rickshaws to get people from one place to another.

Now: Getaround, Uber and Zipcar
With the exception of the stagecoach, we still have all of the above, but disruptive transportation companies are taking it one step further. Uber takes the hassle out of the traditional taxi while Getaround and Zipcar offer more affordable and convenient alternatives to car ownership.

Getting medical attention

ambulance - example of collaborative consumptionBefore: First responders
Thankfully, first responders like EMTs and the Fire Department have been saving lives for ages, and they’re not going anywhere.

Now: Volunteer EMS
Imagine having access to thousands of nearby emergency medical service volunteers. Now imagine they’re all connected with a cloud-based service like Civiguard, which enables any organization in the world to communicate critical information to its civilian in real-time. The result: more lives saved.

Can you think of more examples of evolving collaborative consumption? Share them in the comments below!