Also see Mechanical Serfdom is Just That
The idea of breaking up a job into small pieces and then using the Internet to find workers to do those tasks was pioneered by LiveOps about a decade ago and Amazon.com's (AMZN) Mechanical Turk in 2005. LiveOps lets call-center workers sign on for shifts in 30-minute increments and then uses the Web to route calls to them. Mechanical Turk pays per task—often less than 50 cents—for quick jobs like checking Web pages for errors or transcribing audio recordings.
The trend, which goes by many names—crowdsourcing, the human cloud, microwork—uses the Internet to access workers around the world for short-term projects that pay a few bucks to hundreds of dollars per hour. The tasks might require a few minutes or a few days to complete. Benefits to companies include finding large numbers of workers to complete projects quickly, finding niche expertise, saving money, and making better use of in-house resources. It also lets Western workers, in places with a high cost of living, compete directly with those in developing markets. For many freelancers, microwork gives them unprecedented flexibility to work almost anywhere at any time.