Springwise is covering the private-beta launch of ILetYou today; an interesting service that enables users to rent their private DVD collections as a kinda micro-Netflix. I love the notion of mobilising and monestising my now inert collection of DVDs as spimey-blogjects, but I'm pretty sure that I can't provide better a catalogue or pricing than Netflix :)
However, ILetYou is defining what I think could be a hugely lucrative market for personal rental services. Last Spring, I worked with students and faculty of the Interaction Design Ivrea Institute on an Applied Dreams workshop that gave rise to some incredibly far-sighted ideas around reputation and personal identity.
David Chiu and Didier Hilhorst presented Rent-A-Thing, a concept strikingly similar to ILetYou, but much broader in scope. Rent-A-Thing enables its users to rent or share any of their possessions, using their borrowers reputations as currency to vouch for others. James Tichenor and Vinay Venkatraman’s Sharer service explored similar concepts, but also engaged the regional Italian post office in providing deliery and pickup facilities.
Where ILetYou is addressing a marketplace of abundance, Sharer and Rent-A-Thing are surfacing those possessions and items which are rare, but potentially within proximity. I suspect, ILetYou will derive revenue from mailers and transactions, but but leave little value in the hands of the user. Services based on concepts such as Sharer and Rent-A-Thing can draw transactional revenues, but their localised nature can help promote less tangible value such as reconnecting communities, encouraging re-use and enabling individuals to articulate their reputation.
Incidentally, a year on from the IDII workshops - the concepts are still appealing and ahead of the marketplace...I hope some of those students are thinking about starting up :)
UPDATE: Come to think of it, what if Netflix simply added some tools and APIs to let people build their own storefronts with the Netflix backend, catalogue and some revenue-share? Isn't that sorta the same thing as ILetYou?