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A Website That Attempts the Impossible

Impossible.com is showing us that doing kind acts for others—even perfect strangers—is in fact very much possible. The new online community, already established in the U.K. and currently launching in the U.S., aims to advance the gift economy by serving as a platform for transactionless giving and receiving—that is, people doing nice things for other people without expecting anything in return.

Created by British model, actress, and brand ambassador Lily Cole, Impossible is meant to explore the social value of connecting through giving. On Impossible, users post their wishes, which range from “I wish for a nice cake recipe” to “I wish I could go home to visit my grandmother,” and other users fulfill them. When they do, they won’t get paid, but they might get a heartfelt “thank you” and a feel-good dose of dopamine—which, for many, are more than enough to encourage them to keep on giving.

Cole traveled to New York last month to promote Impossible, appearing on Charlie Rose alongside Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick and Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard Law School and the co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Kirkpatrick and Zittrain talked about the development of the gift economy and its impact on conventional economics. “The Internet is so disruptive of the economy that we think of traditionally. [Impossible] is a really good example of one of the ways that’s happening,” Kirkpatrick said, calling the concept “wonderfully unpredictable.”

Kirkpatrick and Zittrain also compared Impossible to other platforms disrupting traditional economic models, including crowdfunding sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo and travel community site Couchsurfing. A sort of generalized version of Couchsurfing, Impossible seeks to connect users to the giving opportunities they might not otherwise be aware of. “Nowadays society is so complicated that it’s often very hard to see the opportunities,” Cole said. It was this observation that made her wonder: “What if there was an Internet platform that would do just that, that would try and surface those possibilities?” Enter Impossible, whose mission is far from impossible.

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