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Last year, Airbnb, a marketplace that lets individuals rent out their flats and houses to others in a peer-to-peer fashion, raised a staggering $112m in funding. It also found itself in a PR crisis after the apartment of one of its host's apartments was practically torn apart by a guest.

But that apparently hasn't slowed the company's growth.

Today, the company posted an interesting infographic (below) that shows the growth of its service and the characteristics of the transactions it's facilitating. Per that infographic, more than 5m nights have been booked via Airbnb. Spaces are available in more than 19,000 cities in 192 countries.

The infographic reveals that much of Airbnb's current growth is being fueled by the company's international expansion. In 2011, the company grew a whopping 946% in Italy and 748% in the U.K. All told, 75% of bookings in 2011 involved both a guest and host outside of the United States.

To be sure, this is a company that appears to be thriving and on the surface, the future looks bright. Of course, Airbnb isn't quite ready to put the hotel business out of business. 5m nights booked is impressive, but that doesn't come close to the number of global nightly hotel bookings each year.

The big question, of course, is just how big Airbnb can get. The ugly incident last year called into question whether Airbnb's business model was viable. Not only was the incident ugly from a PR standpoint, it highlighted the fact that in most places, renting out your flat to strangers is typically a violation of the rental agreement and, in some locales, both apartment dwellers and homeowners are forbidden by law from renting out their homes for short periods (read: operating a hotel).

Ironically, one of the cities where it's illegal to do that is San Francisco, and part of the Airbnb's infographic shows that a huge swath of the city now has Airbnb listings. That's not only a testament to San Francisco's young tech-savvy populous, and the appeal of the ability to make some extra cash on the side in a city where monthly rents for even small flats in less desirable neighborhoods are sky-high, but to the desire of staying in a real home that Airbnb is successfully tapping into around the world.

Patricio Robles

Published 26 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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