What Is Crowdsourcing?

An Intro to Crowdsourcing and How Popular It's Become Online

Workers Gathered Around Laptop
Photo © Kupicoo / Getty Images

Crowdsourcing is a relatively new type of term that's used a lot online these days. Like it suggests, crowdsourcing is all about gathering information, services or funds from the general public -- or in other words, a "crowd" of people -- who are interested in helping to support or implement an idea.

Why Crowdsource?

It's difficult to initiate and implement a project on your own or even with just a small team.

The more people you can get involved in your idea or project, the more of an impact you can have if you work together to make it happen.

If your idea or project is a good one, people will want to get in on it. That's part of what makes crowdsourcing so great. The best ideas naturally draw more people in, so when it comes to crowdsourcing, putting something into action always relies on whether the public wants it or not.

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Examples of Crowdsourcing

Believe it or not, crowdsourcing has been around long before the term was invented. We've seen it used to provide evidence of Bigfoot or UFOs or the Loch Ness monster in contests that offer a reward for providing proof. And we've seen it in open source development projects where the crowd is key to the development process.

With the growing interaction among people on the social side of the web, the soaring popularity of the crowdsourcing model is not unexpected.

Projects such as ​​Wikipedia provide a great example of crowdsourcing on a large scale, but crowdsourcing doesn't have to be so grandiose. A T-shirt manufacturer opening up a suggestion box for t-shirt slogans is also utilizing the idea of crowdsourcing.

Popular Online Platforms for Crowdsourcing Your Own Project Idea

Kickstarter is another hugely popular crowdsourcing service that most web users have heard about, which allows people to set up their own project proposal page and set a crowdfunding target amount.

(Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are terms that are often used interchangeably.)

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If the project hits its target in funding, it gets sent to production, but if not, everyone who pledged funds to support the project gets their money back. You can learn more about Kickstarter here, including how you can kick off your own project if you have an idea that you think the public might really love.

Indiegogo is another popular crowdsourcing or crowdfunding site that's a bit more flexible than Kickstarter given that people can use it for almost any idea that doesn't necessarily have to be providing a product or a service. It also allows users to keep the funds they raise even if they don't hit their target.

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In essence, crowdsourcing is any sort of outsourcing that involves a large group of people actively participating in the project. Generally, this is the public, but a business might also utilize crowdsourcing techniques to develop an internal application.

Updated by: Elise Moreau