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What Should the 'Sharing Economy' Really Be Called?

Many people aren’t familiar with the term that encompasses businesses like Uber and Airbnb, while others argue that the phrase may be deceptive

Among the surprises in last week’s Pew Research Center survey on the new digital economy was the revelation that the phrase “the sharing economy”—the collective and most broadly accepted term for some of the on-demand apps and platforms that have seemingly seized the world of commerce—is overwhelmingly unknown to most Americans. In other words, while Airbnb may have Super Bowl commercials and Uber may have graduated to being used as a verb, 73 percent of Americans are unfamiliar with the banner under which they operate.

More curiously, those who had heard of “the sharing economy” (or at least claimed to have) frequently defined it as an altruistic endeavor. “The most common description of the sharing economy emphasizes the ‘sharing’ component of the phrase while ignoring the ‘economy’ aspect,” Pew analysts wrote, noting that 40 percent of Americans polled expressed this view.

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