That is true, but Airbnb is not a success because it has a lot of inventory, it has a lot of success because people book there. So stepping there:
What is a failure from Airbnb’s (business) perspective?
It’s not having no visitor on their website. Having visitors is the easy part, even in the early days.
It is having a visitor searching for a place to stay, and there is either no listing, or no listing that they like, on the first screen of search results.
If that happens, Airbnb loses. You lose too, even if you are not on the first screen: the visitor has already left and cannot see your listing in the 3rd page. They won’t even know there is a third page because they wouldn’t scroll down the page.
How do you prevent that?
- Inventory size: for Airbnb, that is through press coverage, or local outreach.
- Photography: that is Airbnb’s first bump.
If that was randomized, every search would have completely different results.
Want an example of a quasi-randomized experience from your perspective? Airplane tickets. Do you like buying plane tickets? It’s horrible.
You would spend hours to find the one website where the plane ticket is cheaper. You would read articles to find tips on where and when to plane ticket for cheap. The entire buying experience seems random, because there is no way to predict how much a plane ticket would cost.
Naturally, there is nothing less random than the pricing of plane ticket.
But the experience of booking a place on Airbnb has to be the complete opposite. In fact, look at this job offer for an Engineer in Search:
Read this about “helping guests decide”, “quickly and confidently”, “confidence”, “keeping track”.
Or even for this job offer for an engineer in Search Relevance.
Read this again about “personnalizing”, “optimizing”, “distribution of demand”, “data-informed experiences”…
So they can do cycles to “spread the wealth” across the inventory. Fundamentally, it is their job and it makes sense in inventory economics.
Incidentally, do you monitor your listing’s placement in search ranking daily? It doesn’t fluctuate randomly. There are fluctuations, and the larger the market, the larger the fluctuations, but they have a tendency to get in the same direction. Random doesn’t know where to go.