LODGING LOOK-ALIKES

Looks like the Marriott has been learning from Airbnb, and Airbnb has been learning from the Marriott…and they both want what the other has–NOW. On Monday, we got word that the Marriott, which owns popular hotel brands like Sheraton, W Hotels, and Ritz-Carlton, is jumping into one of the lodging industry’s hottest segments: the home-rental business. Starting next week, the world’s biggest hotel operator is going to roll out an “Airbnb”-ish rental service called Homes & Villas, offering accommodations in about 2,000 high-end homes ($200-$10,000/night) throughout 100 markets globally. On the same day this news hit the wires, we learned of Airbnb’s latest plans to become more “Marriott”-ish: it announced a fleet of new apartment-style luxury hotel suites exclusively available for Airbnb guests in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Granted, this isn’t the company’s first move into the traditional hospitality business (Just last month, Airbnb bought last-minute hotel booking app HotelTonight), but it is its most aggressive to date, and is yet another strategic step on the diversification road as it gears up to go public later this year.

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS SCANDAL, EXPANDED…

Which well-heeled executive or Hollywood celebrity might be next to be charged in the college admissions scandal? Might it be you? Or you? Or, OMG–you??? An entirely new set of parents, beyond the 33 who have already been charged and publicly shamed, is now being pursued by Federal prosecutors. In fact, some parents have recently been informed that they are under investigation, and those who have not yet been notified are assuming they’re next. The hot spot? Los Angeles and the surrounding vicinity. Bill Singer, the crooked college consultant at the center of the scheme, was based in Newport Beach.

ZUCKAPALOOZA

At Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Jose on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg gave us a preview of the redesigned Facebook. Referred to as “FB5,” the updated version for mobile and desktop puts its Group feature at the center of the social network’s experience. This may be our least favorite feature (and not one that we personally use), but “Groups” is apparently popular, according to…Facebook! It says about 400 million users now belong to a group, and they do all sorts of stuff on there, like share recipes, talk about their dogs, find out what’s going on around town, etc. There is concern that “Groups” could end up morphing into a potential breeding ground for conspiracies…hate…misinformation, and time will tell, but the main objective behind Facebook’s shift is to make communication seem more contained, and, you know, private. As for the announced expansion of Facebook’s long-awaited Dating feature to 14 new countries, including Brazil and Malaysia….and its new “Secret Crush” feature so you can see which friends might be romantically interested in you?? NO…and…NO.