Guest post by David Bratvold

As buzzwords go, “crowdsourcing” may not be as big as “social-media” or “mobile apps” but new research show it is one of the most rapidly-expanding trends in our field.

Crowdsourcing represents an epic shift in the world of labor, automation, and information science, one with large economic and ethical implications. Everybody is looking at this trend and wondering, “How big is the market?” “How fast is it changing?” and “Which companies should I be working with?”  So the Daily Crowdsource is beginning to explore some of those questions through original research.

To answer these questions accurately, we took the last three months to perform a thorough analysis of enterprise-grade microtasking vendors and produced a market report.  We chose the ‘microtasking’ sector to start with because it’s one of the two sectors that enterprises can benefit from the most. Here’s what we found:

There are currently six enterprise-grade microtasking providers: Clickworker, CrowdFlowerCrowdSource, Microtask, Microworkers, & Serv.io (aka CloudCrowd).  The earliest of these appeared in November 2005, and the most recent appeared September 2010.

If you’re wondering why Amazon’s MTurk isn’t on the list, it’s because they operate quite differently than the evaluated providers.  MTurk, though one of the largest and most well-known suppliers of microtasks, lacks the quality & validation checks that enterprise clients require.  Although enterprises can develop their own quality-assurance system in Mturk, the value of sophisticated, field-tested algorithms far outweigh the cost increases associated with using one of these other six quality-focused platforms.

The market demand for crowd-sourced work quintupled in 2010 & almost quadrupled in 2011:

Despite being around for six years, the microtasking field was in the testing phase for the first three years.  Several platforms were revamped, relaunched, or finally “released” in 2009.  Client adoption was also slow until 2009 when the first surge in market demand occurred.  Last year, the number of completed microtasks increased 496% over 2009.  The number of tasks completed in 2011 is estimated to increase 355%

These are part of the findings of our extensive report on crowdsourcing trends and research.

Despite this quick growth, the field is still in its infancy.  How quickly it will mature is yet to be seen. Is this growth sustainable?  One clue to this answer is that microtasking has yet to be adopted by many large companies. This rate of adoption is also increasing so 2012 could be another years of explosive growth for this nascent industry.

With the growing importance (and controversy) of microtasking, it’s critical that we start measuring and understanding these trends. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of research efforts to understand this business model.

Have you experimented with crowdsourcing yet? How could you use it?

David Bratvold is the founder of Daily Crowdsource, the #1 site for crowdsourcing news, training & resources. His goal is to educate business professionals on the benefits of crowdsourcing. He will present more of his findings at Social Slam 2012.

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