Two swapping sites with different philosophies

Innovation in online swapping services is still at the early stage. The swap companies are still figuring out the basic economics, like: Should swaps be item-for-item, or should there an intermediate fake currency to track the value of things? You can see radically different philosophies in the services, ranging from the points-based system of Peerflix to the pure barter system of SwapTree.

There's another service that's got a bit of momentum: SwapThing. I'll say upfront that it's got the ugliest user interface of any of the swap services, but it's also got a lot of flexibility that may work to its users' advantages. For one thing, SwapThing doesn't restrict you to just swapping. If you want to get rid of an item, you can put it up for swap, or cash, or either.

Also, SwapThing is the first barter site I've seen that explicitly supports the trading of services. So if you're a poor consultant who wants to trade your time for an item on the network, SwapThing will let you barter your expertise directly. Small business owners might find this useful. As CEO Jessica Hardwick rightly notes, "It's rare to meet a service provider that doesn't have downtime." This gives the downtime more potential value.

Here's another swap site I stumbled across (literally -- I was using Stumbleupon): Zunafish. This one is like-for-like only: you can only trade DVDs for other DVDs, books for other books, etc. That, to me, drastically reduces the value of a swapping network. However, Zunafish has a much better user interface than SwapThing, and that counts for something. You're unlikely to enter in items into a swapping service if it's a drag to do so, and on Zunafish it's easy.
Tech Culture
About the author

Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.


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