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Ask, share, give – the new face of e-commerce?

The saying ‘sharing is caring’ makes up the essence of one Aucklander’s social experiment – a website that gives away goods and services for free.

The site, asksharegive.org.nz, is based on the gift economy, where goods and services flow freely between community members. Users are free to choose the recipient of their goods.

While it's unlikely the new website will rival TradeMe in user traffic, it can certainly rival it in community spirit.

Founder Guy Bibby says he was inspired by free software projects, Wikipedia and Pacific culture, where people exert effort to build a common good without the hope of seeing a return on it.

“That is what the world needs more of,” he says.

“The recession proved it’s not going to be endless growth and consumption. So people will be looking at alternatives and for that community.”

AskShareGive has only been running for a month, but has had more than 200 “trades” and is gaining momentum.­­

Current giveaways include televisions, hairdryers and books, while users are requesting help with cancer fundraising, dog walking and transport.

The founder’s “real job” is as a software developer and he has met all of the startup and running costs so far, which he sees as his hobby.

Corporate sponsorship could be an option, says Bibby, if momentum continues to build.

Bibby, from Mount Roskill, says because any request for free goods is made public  to the online community who “up vote and down vote requests,” greed and excess are kept in line.

“People want to uphold their reputation so this encourages them to not just receive, but give as well,” says Bibby.

Victoria University e-commerce lecturer Dr David Mason says although initially sites like AskShareGive have a community of positive users, as they grow they are open to exploitation.

“Thieves have the internet and iPhones too,” says Mason.

Mason described the “double edged sword” of fledgling charity websites: costs are spread when you increase your users, but so do the risks of misuse and legal issues.

Bibby says he promotes online safety, especially with personal details.

He says he has only had to remove two ads so far and hopes the gift economy movement takes hold in New Zealand.

“The promise of the project is coming through, I really hope that it can go far and change communities, where people interact for the greater good,” he says.

Consumer magazine editor David Naulls believes the website has “a reasonable number of safeguards”, such as a moderator, no street addresses and they don’t on sell your personal details to third parties.

Naulls says it could prove popular as “Kiwis are famous for our compulsive generosity".

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