Airbnb and Uber are, far and away, the two poster children for digital businesses disrupting physical-world industries in deep ways. As such, it is unsurprising that they have been reaping all the growth, value, attention and regulatory scrutiny that comes when scalable marketplaces hit up against large and entrenched industries.
Uber’s private market valuation has accelerated far more rapidly than Airbnb’s in the last several years. But many of the technorati believe that Airbnb has—in the long term—a more defensible business than Uber because Airbnb is a natural global monopoly whereas Uber is engaged in a market-by-market dogfight.
Recently, however, as local regulation attempts against both Airbnb and Uber evolve—notably Airbnb’s big blow in New York—a secondary narrative is becoming clear.