Money may become obsolete Friday at 7 p.m. in the Library of Dwight Hall.
At that time, four Yale students are launching TheGiftEconomy.org, an online economy with just one rule: no money allowed.
On the Web site each user will have a profile that will list what they want to give away and what they need. Since money is banned, users can barter, share or give away goods on the site. Additionally, each user’s profile will contain a record of the user’s transactions and comments that other users post.
David “Hans” Schoenburg ’10 said he got the idea for TheGiftEconomy.org after using couchsurfing.com, which connects people interested in traveling around the world with users willing to host them for free. Schoenburg said in the past year he has hosted over 12 people staying in New Haven through couchsurfing.com. TheGiftEconomy.org is a similar form of social networking and Schoenburg said it will give strangers, who may pass each other on the street without a glance, a chance to connect over the exchange of goods and services.
Schoenburg said the hardest part about launching the site is getting people to think outside “the money box.” Items on TheGiftEconomy.org may have a different value for each user and “currency is in the eye of the beholder,” Schoenburg said.
As a result, a good on the site will “go to the user who values it the most,” Schoenburg said.
But though the site’s other founders — Leon Noel ’10, Brandon Jackson ’12 and Cris Shirley ’10 — say they do not know exactly what kind of goods and services will be exchanged over the site, Schoenburg said it could become anything from clothing to employment opportunities.
Either way, Schoenburg said an alternate economy is more sustainable for the planet because it promotes recycling. Noel said 40 students have already contacted him about becoming users.
Noel said he has already launched two other start-up Web sites: listfullofhope.com and socialsci.com. Listfullofhope.com was similar to TheGiftEconomy.org. On the site users could list what they needed online and contact other users for exchanges. He said he learned a lot working on those Web sites which had similar missions and can now avoid a number pitfalls he encountered before. For example, Schoenburg said though over 25,000 users joined the listfullofhope.com, it had to be shut down because the amount of spam it generated overpowered its message boards.
To prevent a similar problem, TheGiftEconomy.org is designed to prevent large amounts of spam because the students can deactivate users who spam the site.
Still Schoenburg said he is unsure whether the site will be completely ready for use at the launch on Friday but said he is interested in recruiting Yale students to use the site, give feedback and help work out any problems that arise.
Noel said he and the other founders plan to remain relatively “hands off” after the launch and intend to see if it can catch on by itself, adding that they are looking for non-profits to become members.