Crowdsourcing, i.e. the process of outsourcing tasks by organizations or individuals online in the form of an ‘open-call’, has attracted commercial and academic interest all over the world primarily due to
the success of Amazon Mechanical Turk (Mturk), an American-based platform and one of the first to support crowd work.
Crowdsourcing is considered as a problem-solving tool , an online distributed problem-solving and production model , an open collaborative learning paradigm , and a new resource for product development.
In China, and over the last few years, crowdsourcing has garnered widespread interest. Articles in People’s Daily and China Daily describe crowdsourcing as a new value creation model, which invigorates IT industries using public intelligence.
China, being one of the world’s most populous countries and a rapidly growing digital economy today supplies a substantial workforce to crowdsourcing platforms.
According to Huo, Zheng and Tu by 2017 there were already 30 million Chinese crowdworkers serving more than 190,000 enterprises and individuals worldwide, generating a total business turnover of CNY 5 billion (approx. $900M USD).
At the time of writing, ZBJ and Epwk have established themselves as the most prominent crowdsourcing platforms in China with around 19 million active crowdworkers each.
ZBJ and Epwk cover a wide range of crowdsourcing tasks ranging from click-work to logo and product design.
Other crowdsourcing platforms in China include TaskCN with almost 500 thousand workers and "680 " with roughly 8.5 million workers.
For the most part, these platforms operate similarly to other
crowdsourcing platforms, such as Upwork5 and Mturk6.
Limited research about the workers of these Chinese platforms has illustrated that they are mainly individuals seeking to earn additional income in their spare time .
However, based on our recent investigations, which included long in-depth interviews with 48 experienced Chinese crowdworkers that worked primarily for ZBJ.com, discussions with 5 policy experts, and a detailed analysis of the aforementioned websites, we have identified that, for the most part, this is not the case anymore as the numbers of individual workers are diminishing and are being replaced by companies that undertake and do crowdsourcing tasks en masse.
For brevity’s shake and due to the way they seem to operate, we dubbed these companies “crowdfarms”.
See Figures 1 and 2 for pictures of typical crowdfarms.