Crowdsourcing has grown rapidly over the past decade, establishing itself as an invaluable tool for businesses, organizations, researchers, and creative professionals. Put simply, crowdsourcing leverages the knowledge, skills, and perspectives of a large, diverse group of people to accomplish a wide range of tasks and goals.
Whereas traditionally, tasks and projects were handled in-house by employees or contractors, crowdsourcing opens up participation to the public. By tapping into the collective intelligence and manpower of the crowd, it becomes possible to achieve outcomes that may have been too costly, complex, or time-consuming for any one person or organization to undertake alone.
Crowdsourcing comes in many different forms and serves many different purposes. Some common examples include crowdfunding campaigns that democratize access to capital, design contests and innovation challenges that harness creative talent, and distributed human computing platforms that parcel out micro-tasks to online contributors. No matter the application, crowdsourcing makes it simple and affordable to access specialized skills, novel solutions, diverse perspectives, on-the-ground data collection, and scalable workforces.
As crowdsourcing has matured, dedicated platforms have emerged to connect requesters and contributors for specific needs. Today, leading crowdsourcing platforms channel the crowd’s productive power toward everything from data processing and transcription to graphic design, market research surveys, product development, writing, and more.
This guide takes an in-depth look at the top 10 crowdsourcing platforms shaping business and society today. It explains how each platform works, key benefits and use cases, and what makes the platforms stand out from the competition. Whether you’re exploring crowdsourcing for the first time or are already a seasoned user, this definitive guide maps the crowdsourcing landscape and showcases the extensive possibilities of harnessing the crowd.
What is Crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining information or input into a task or project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet. The term was first coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired magazine article.
Some key aspects of crowdsourcing include:
- Leveraging the “wisdom of the crowd” – large groups of people can collectively have more knowledge and better insights than any single individual. Crowdsourcing allows tapping into that collective intelligence.
- Outsourcing work to a distributed group of people, often an online community. This allows work to be done more quickly, cheaply, and efficiently than traditional means.
- Breaking large tasks into microtasks that can be completed rapidly by many people. This makes seemingly arduous jobs manageable.
- Using competition to motivate participation. People are often willing to complete tasks for badges, prizes, rewards, or status in addition to payment.
- Utilizing spare time and cognitive surplus. People in their free time can use crowdsourcing platforms as a productive way to earn money, contribute to projects, or develop skills.
So in summary, crowdsourcing leverages networked online communities and technology to divide work among a large decentralized group rather than localizing it to dedicated internal teams. This allows more work to be done, problems solved, data processed, and creativity unlocked.
Benefits of Crowdsourcing
Crowdsourcing can provide several benefits compared to traditional resourcing models. Here are some of the key advantages:
Access to talent
Crowdsourcing provides access to a large, global talent pool that would be difficult or impossible to reach through traditional hiring methods. Organizations can connect with freelancers, subject matter experts, and niche specialists around the world. This gives access to skills and knowledge that may not be available locally.
By tapping into the on-demand global workforce, organizations can significantly reduce costs associated with permanent employees or traditional consulting models. Crowdsourcing provides access to talent and solutions at a fraction of the cost of traditional resourcing.
Crowdsourcing makes it possible to parallelize work, splitting large projects into microtasks that multiple workers complete simultaneously. This dramatically reduces project delivery times compared to sequential working models. Complex projects can be completed in days or weeks rather than months.
Tapping into a distributed, highly diverse global talent pool also provides access to far more diverse perspectives, ideas, and insights compared to traditional teams. This diversity of thought can spark innovation and creativity. Geographic, cultural, and experiential diversity avoids groupthink.
In summary, crowdsourcing provides flexibility, scalability, and diversity while driving down costs and accelerating results. The collective intelligence, skills, and creativity of the crowd can be more powerful than traditional resourcing approaches.
Top 5 Crowdsourcing Platforms
Crowdsourcing has become an increasingly popular way for businesses and organizations to outsource work and gather ideas from a large, distributed pool of people. Here are 10 of the top crowdsourcing platforms as of 2024:
1. Amazon Mechanical Turk
Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is one of the largest and most well-known crowdsourcing marketplaces. It allows requesters to distribute microtasks like data validation, research, content moderation, and more to a diverse, on-demand workforce. Workers can complete tasks for monetary rewards. MTurk is best suited for simple, repetitive tasks that require human intelligence.
Upwork is a leading freelance platform for businesses to connect with freelancers globally. Freelancers bid on projects posted by clients across various skills like development, design, writing, administration, and more. Upwork offers robust tools for payments, project management, and collaboration. It’s a great option for businesses looking to outsource projects or find freelance talent.
Fiverr connects businesses with freelancers offering services starting at $5. It covers an extensive range of digital services like graphic design, digital marketing, programming, video, and animation. Fiverr’s platform makes it easy to place orders, communicate requirements, and get work delivered within tight deadlines. It’s a go-to for affordable freelance services.
CrowdFlower enables companies to source high-quality data using crowdsourcing. It offers data enrichment, data collection, and other data services through its global on-demand workforce. CrowdFlower’s platform uses machine learning algorithms to ensure quality control. It’s used by companies across various industries to improve datasets.
Clickworker operates a global crowdsourcing marketplace connecting businesses, organizations, and individuals with a large network of qualified freelancers. It covers areas like writing, editing, research, data entry, QA testing, surveys, and more. Clickworker is known for quick turnarounds, scale, and security compliance.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is one of the largest and most well-known crowdsourcing marketplaces. It was launched by Amazon in 2005.
Overview: Amazon Mechanical Turk operates as a marketplace where businesses or individuals can outsource repetitive or tedious tasks to a distributed workforce who can complete these tasks virtually. It’s named after “The Turk”, an 18th-century chess-playing automaton that was later revealed to have a human chess master hidden inside.
Some key features of Amazon Mechanical Turk include:
- Businesses (called Requesters) can hire Workers from over 190 countries to complete tasks virtually.
- Tasks range from data processing, transcription, research, content moderation, surveys, and more.
- Workers choose which tasks to complete and get paid for each completed task.
- Requesters can screen Workers by predefined qualifications and metrics to find the most suitable candidates.
- Large established platform with millions of Workers available 24/7.
- Low costs – Workers often accept lower wages to complete simple tasks.
- Fast turnaround time allowing tasks to be completed within hours or minutes.
- Good quality control features such as predefined Worker qualifications and the ability to reject unsatisfactory work.
- Wages are often low and Workers may feel exploited or unsatisfied with pay rates.
- Potential communication barriers with Workers across language and cultural divides.
- Quality levels can vary greatly depending on the Worker and their commitment to the task.
- Limited customer support and mediation options between Requesters and Workers.
- Data processing – e.g. receipts, forms, data entry.
- Content moderation – flagging inappropriate/explicit content.
- Transcription – converting audio to text.
- Research – surveys, user testing, data gathering.
- Content creation – writing, proofreading, translation.
- Image tagging – labeling images for machine learning training.
Amazon Mechanical Turk is ideal for businesses or individuals who need simple repetitive tasks completed quickly and at low cost by a distributed virtual workforce. The large pool of Workers and programmatic management make it easy to scale tasks as needed. However, quality control and mediation remain ongoing challenges on the platform.
#2 – Upwork
Upwork is one of the largest freelance marketplace platforms, connecting businesses with freelancers offering services in areas like web development, mobile development, design, writing, admin support, customer service, and more.
Upwork has over 12 million registered freelancers and 5 million registered clients. Since launching in 2015 from the merger of Elance and oDesk, Upwork has become the leading freelance website globally.
Some key features of Upwork include:
- A large pool of skilled freelancers in many categories
- Screened profiles and verified work histories
- Secure escrow payments
- Collaboration tools like chat and video conferencing
- Feedback and rating system
- Large selection of qualified, screened freelancers
- Easy to post jobs and connect with freelancers
- A secure payment system protects both clients and freelancers
- A feedback system ensures quality work
- Lower fees compared to other freelance platforms
- Not ideal for small, quick jobs due to higher fees for smaller budgets
- Need to sift through many proposals to find best-fit freelancers
- Some freelancers have English fluency issues
- Fees can add up, with 10-20% on the first $500, then 5-10% on additional billings
Upwork is a particularly good fit for:
- Ongoing projects requiring multiple skills/freelancers
- Projects with larger budgets
- Businesses seeking qualified, professional freelancers
- Jobs requiring specialized expertise
- Quickly scaling teams for new projects or growth
The large talent pool and robust features of Upwork make it a top choice for companies looking to easily augment their teams with freelance talent.
#3 – Fiverr
Fiverr is an online marketplace for freelance services. It connects businesses with freelancers offering services in areas like graphic design, programming, writing, and more.
Fiverr’s name comes from the original base price of $5 for services when it launched. Today, Fiverr offers services starting at $5 but extending into thousands of dollars for more complex projects. It operates globally, with freelancers in over 100 countries offering services in more than 100 categories.
Some key features of Fiverr:
- Instant connect with freelancers offering pre-defined services called “gigs.” Services include marketing, design, writing, programming, and more.
- Buyers purchase gig packages and can communicate requirements to sellers.
- Sellers create gigs, set prices and delivery times, and get paid when buyers are satisfied.
- Lots of options at low/affordable prices, starting at $5. High-quality work is available too at higher price points.
- Built-in order and delivery management system.
- Huge selection of services, talent pools, and affordable pricing. Makes getting even complex projects done easy.
- Fast and efficient. Buyers can quickly connect with sellers and get projects started.
- Quality work available. Top sellers offer high-quality services and build long-term relationships with buyers.
- Good for small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs wanting to get things done at affordable rates.
- Lots of add-on services like editing are available. Allows for one-stop project completion.
- Mixed reliability. Quality depends on each seller, requiring research to find the best talent.
- Not ideal for large or highly complex projects. More suitable for small-defined tasks and projects.
- Less suited for long-term, evolving needs. Works best for one-off service requests.
- Communication and availability can vary between freelancers. Timezone differences can delay responses.
Some examples of how businesses use Fiverr:
- Design – logos, branding, illustrations, packaging, etc.
- Digital marketing – SEO audits, social media, video production
- Writing – copywriting, translation, research, articles, ebooks
- Programming – mobile apps, WordPress sites, chatbots
- Music – voiceovers, background music, sound effects
- Business – market research, data entry, legal consultations
Fiverr is a top choice for startups and SMBs looking to get projects done within budget constraints. It offers easy access to freelance talent pools worldwide.
#4 – CrowdFlower
CrowdFlower is a crowdsourcing platform that allows businesses and organizations to get work done quickly and at scale by tapping into a global workforce.
CrowdFlower provides access to over 5 million contributors around the world, enabling users to distribute large volumes of work in many categories like data collection, content moderation, and more. The platform uses AI and machine learning to categorize contributors, route tasks accordingly, and ensure quality results.
Some key features of CrowdFlower include:
- A diverse range of crowd workers – With contributors in over 70 countries, users can get work completed around the clock in 35 languages.
- Smart data routing – Machine learning algorithms route tasks to the right contributors based on things like location, skills, interests, and more. This improves turnaround times and results in quality.
- Robust quality control – Customizable quality control settings like required qualifications, test questions, worker certifications, and statistical consensus help ensure high-quality work.
- Flexible task creation – Users can easily create a variety of tasks like image tagging, surveys, content moderation, data categorization, transcription, and more through an intuitive interface.
- Secure data handling – CrowdFlower ensures data security through encryption, contributor screen monitoring, and restricted access. Users maintain ownership rights over their data.
- Fast turnaround due to a large global contributor pool
- Advanced quality control for high-quality work
- Supports a wide variety of crowdsourcing tasks
- Easy-to-use platform and APIs
- Competitive pricing starts at $0.01 per task
- No human customer service for contributors
- Lower earnings compared to some other platforms
- The steep learning curve for first-time requesters
CrowdFlower is used by companies and organizations across many industries for a wide range of use cases:
- Data Collection – Surveys, market research, image tagging/transcription, audio transcription, etc.
- Content Moderation – Filtering inappropriate/undesirable content like text, images, or videos.
- Data Enrichment – Enhancing data quality via cleaning, categorization, de-duplication, etc.
- Sentiment Analysis – Understanding opinions and sentiments on products, brands, topics, etc.
- Ad Relevance – Judging the relevance of search/display ads to target users.
- Search Relevance – Judging the relevance of search engine results.
- Product Categorization – Correctly sorting products into taxonomies.
- Content Tagging – Tagging images, videos, or text for semantics and searchability.
So in summary, CrowdFlower provides a powerful platform to distribute work at scale and tap into the collective intelligence of a diverse, global crowd. With strong quality control and the ability to handle a wide variety of tasks, it’s a top choice for many high-volume crowdsourcing needs.
#5 – Clickworker
Clickworker is an online crowdsourcing marketplace that connects businesses with a global network of freelancers to outsource micro tasks and projects.
Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Germany, Clickworker operates in over 50 countries worldwide. Its crowdsourced workforce exceeds 1 million registered experts spanning many skills and domains.
Some key facts about Clickworker:
- Specializes in completing microtasks like data entry, research, surveys, content moderation, transcription, SEO, and more.
- Also offers services for translation, proofreading, graphic design, marketing activities, and other projects.
- Clients include major companies like Lidl, Honda, Porsche, BBC, Harvard University, and more.
- Workers can choose tasks that fit their skills and get paid for each completed job via PayPal, direct deposit, or gift cards.
- A large pool of qualified and vetted workers ensures timely completion.
- Easy sign-up process for workers.
- Convenient online dashboard to manage projects and tasks.
- Competitive pricing compared to other freelance websites.
- Strong quality control measures like ratings, qualifications, and oversight.
- Mostly focused on microtasks rather than larger, more complex projects.
- Can have lower pay rates on some microtasks compared to other platforms.
- Too many low-quality tasks to sift through to find good work.
- Need to earn over $10 to cash out earnings.
Clickworker is ideal for both businesses and workers in these common scenarios:
- Outsourcing repetitive administrative tasks like data entry, fact-checking, categorization, and moderation.
- Market research activities like surveys, feedback collection, and sentiment analysis.
- Content creation includes writing, editing, tagging, and categorizing.
- Lead generation and list building.
- Data processing jobs like transcription, translation, and image annotation.
- SEO and marketing activities like backlink building, and localization.
In summary, Clickworker delivers an efficient way to tap into global talent and scale operations through technology and smart workflows. Its large workforce, automated quality control, and focus on productivity allow the completion of high-volume micro tasks and projects in a fast, cost-effective manner.
Crowdsourcing has emerged as a powerful way for businesses and organizations to leverage the skills, ideas, and work products of a global community. As we’ve seen in this guide, there are a variety of excellent crowdsourcing platforms that enable this connection.
Looking to the future, crowdsourcing appears poised for even greater growth and impact. As more complex tasks become automated by AI, crowdsourcing may evolve to focus more on creative, analytical, and interpersonal skills that remain uniquely human. New specialization, quality control, and worker reputation features on platforms will likely allow for increasingly sophisticated workflows.
Augmented and virtual reality could also unlock new crowdsourcing capabilities. As the global workforce becomes more connected, we may see large-scale collaborations on everything from scientific problems to humanitarian projects.
While challenges around data privacy, fair compensation, and platform governance remain, the crowdsourcing community continues to grow. Organizations are finding new ways to tap into on-demand talent pools, while workers have access to income opportunities beyond their local job market.
Ultimately, crowdsourcing allows new ideas and solutions to emerge that would never take shape within a single organization. As platforms, requesters, and workers refine their practices, this human-powered marketplace promises to keep making positive impacts for years to come.