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Crowdsourcing (from English crowd for '(human) crowd', and sourcing for 'procurement'; also crowdworking ) refers to the outsourcing of traditional internal tasks to a group of voluntary users, e.g. B. on the Internet. This designation is based on the term outsourcing , the outsourcing of corporate tasks and structures to third-party companies. The term swarm outsourcing is also used synonymously .

Crowdsourcing increases processing speed, quality, flexibility, scalability and diversity at reduced costs.


Crowdsourcing is a term coined by the American journalist Jeff Howe ( Wired ) , which was first introduced in 2006 in the article "The Rise of Crowdsourcing" written by Howe. Definition according to Nicole Martin, Stefan Lessmann and Stefan Voß : “Crowdsourcing is an interactive form of service provision that is organized collaboratively or competitively and includes a large number of extrinsically or intrinsically motivated actors of different levels of knowledge using modern information and communication systems based on Web 2.0 . Service objects are products or services of different degrees of innovation, which are developed reactively by the network of participants on the basis of external impulses or proactively through the automatic identification of gaps in demand or opportunities. "

The term crowdsourcing also describes the collection of ideas and feedback from outside. Special forms of this crowdsourcing are crowdtesting , in which the majority of Internet users test apps or web applications, for example, give their feedback on errors found and thus improve usability, as well as crowdfunding , in which, from the company's point of view, the ideas or work performance of the majority of the Internet user is targeted, but these are to be won as investors.

Christian Papsdorf is developing a first social science approach to the young phenomenon with the following definition:

"Crowdsourcing is the strategy of outsourcing a service usually provided by the employed by an organization or private person by means of an open appeal to a mass of unknown actors, in which the crowdsourcer and / or the crowdsourcees gain freely usable and direct economic advantages."

- Ch. Papsdorf : How surfing becomes work. Crowdsourcing in Web 2.0

This detailed definition aims to clearly differentiate similar phenomena such as open source , mass customization or the thesis of the working customer from crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is also being discussed as an opportunity to balance the global wealth gap.

Strategic use

The voluntary crowdsourcees are referred to as prosumers within the process . Companies often ask them to participate in special tasks and support them, for example, within the innovation or production processes. Furthermore, they are involved by the companies to solve problems related to the research and development processes. Crowdsourcing can also be used to evaluate ideas, especially if a company has to evaluate a very large number of submitted ideas as part of the open innovation concept. However, the crowd-based idea evaluation has so far reached its limits, especially with relatively complex ideas. Thus, a study , that an anonymous online crowd business model ideas could not consistently evaluate experts. Designing production with the help of prosumers has several advantages for companies. Your customers are directly involved in the production process, which means that the company can reduce the risk of "bypassing" customer requirements. Furthermore, they receive many suggestions free of charge, for example for future innovations, for design or meaningful developments.

Crowdsourcing therefore represents a modern form of division of labor, which has long been one of the basic principles of business. This novel method was and is made possible by technological progress and the advent of the Internet, in particular the Web 2.0. Companies use the intelligence of the swarm for their purposes (cf. swarm intelligence or wisdom of the many ) and benefit from the easy accessibility of the users. The approach behind crowdsourcing is that a heterogeneous mass of individually decisive people can achieve the quality of expert decisions. Another advantage for companies is therefore of an economic nature, they can save costs for experts, especially since studies have shown that the products produced by the participants are qualitatively comparable with the suggestions of the professionals. In return, the members of the crowd benefit from the prospect of being able to influence the development of a product according to their own ideas and wishes. If critical voices are left aside, the result is that companies and members of the crowd benefit from product-specific participation via the Internet.

In the case of result-related remuneration, cash bonuses, small monetary rewards, perks or exclusive information are common ( paid crowdsourcing ). However, there are many crowdsourcing projects with no financial incentives. These motivate the volunteers through professional advantages, the desire to learn new things, to share knowledge with others and to achieve common goals. In any project, the perception of social recognition, meaningful and creative work, the fun of working together and the sense of community are motivating for the participants.


The criticism of crowdsourcing has been shaped by the change and scope of this topic over time. The beginnings, such as the Wikipedia project around 2004, were hardly subject to criticism. There are transformations from crowdsouring to paid crowdsourcing to crowdworking and clickworkers with micro jobs to crowdfunding . The unpaid, voluntary work is sometimes criticized as exploitation . As a result, there were shifts in the area of ​​work for remuneration. This in turn increased the criticism of payment, insufficient social security, creation rights and other consequences. The shifts cannot be viewed in terms of decades because the upheaval was much faster. The development of the criticism is chronologically ordered as follows:

  • Criticism 2006: The use of crowdsourcing in the service sector can mean major disadvantages for professional providers whose services are now carried out by lay people. For example, iStockphoto has reduced image sales by many professional photographers by providing royalty-free amateur photography at very low prices. In many areas of the service sector, prices can fall as soon as there is an alternative that is fed by crowdsourcing.
  • Criticism 2012: It is feared that more jobs will be lost. One criticism from the university sector was: "The approach of the Trier University of Applied Sciences undermines the career opportunities of its own graduates."
  • Review 2015: A market for micro jobs has developed that is characterized by tough competition and low pay. The hourly wage for an academic is "less than three euros an hour".
  • Criticism 2016: The division of projects into small tasks is criticized. This has established itself in large parts of the economy, but has not led to regulated employment that is suitable for securing a livelihood. Politicians and unions see this, but have so far not found any solutions. In February 2016, the German Trade Union Confederation warned of a “shadow job market on the Internet”. The DGB chairman Reiner Hoffmann said in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung : “New forms of work such as crowdworking need rules to avoid distortions of competition through wage and social dumping, pseudo self-employment or tax evasion.” The “new opportunities for more good work ” stand by “High risk potential” versus “especially for routine jobs”.
  • Criticism 2017: The future of advertising agencies is partially endangered by crowdsourcing. Lengthy creation processes can be replaced by crowd management.
  • Review 2019: Security for crowd workers. How can click workers be better protected. The Hans Böckler Foundation is presenting a model that digitalization itself makes use of.
  • Criticism 2020: The financing is sometimes lured with unrealistic promises, as shown by the example of the Frankfurt Coa Holding GmbH.


The Wikipedia has emerged from an originally conceived as a crowdsourcing project. It should attract people who write encyclopedic articles on the wiki in an uncontrolled process. These articles would then go through the editing process of Nupedia , which was intended to be the actual encyclopedia. Since Wikipedia was much more productive than Nupedia, the operators finally gave up Nupedia.

A special form is the so-called mobile crowdsourcing, which has developed due to the growing spread of smartphones. Its functions (telephone, SMS or e-mail), in conjunction with GPS tracking, enable effective support, for example, for vital relief missions, for example as a result of natural disasters, technical, biological or medical disasters or armed conflicts in crisis regions. Data can also be collected in this way, for example on radiation or noise levels, traffic volume and air pollution in cities. In some cities in Asia and Africa, where drinking water is often only available for a few hours of the day, a more reliable supply is guaranteed with the help of mobile crowdsourcing. Another example is the better perception and exploration of the flora and fauna, which is ensured, for example, with the help of the mobile crowdsourcing project Map of Life at Yale University . In the long term, users should use a mobile app to feed data from their environment in which they are currently located into a wiki that can be accessed worldwide. This would enable observable reactions of the species occurring there to any climatic changes to be comprehensively considered in a dynamic model.

In the form of design competitions, creative services such as B. Graphic and brand design are written out.

Another form can be found in the area of ​​software tests : the so-called crowd testing uses the mass and variety of testers and test environments through a virtual test community, which is commissioned by the software manufacturer as required - usually through an intermediary provider. Crowd testing is increasingly being used by manufacturers of smartphone applications (so-called apps ) and operators of large online shops and portals.

Crowdsolving is a subset of crowdsourcing . Here, a large group of people or institutions is involved in order to solve a (often common) problem. In connection with playful elements , the TU Munich calls its crowdsolving approach to pattern recognition in images by medical laypeople "Playsourcing".

An app was developed from the film Bike vs Cars with which the user documents his use of the bike and makes it available anonymously. This is intended to exert political influence to show cycling as an alternative to the car. The data is collected on the Bike Data Project website , where it can be viewed live or requested by municipalities or city planners. As an extension, the possibility was created to make data available via existing sports apps.


The Internet represents the basis for interactive collaboration between a geographically dispersed group of people who work on a joint project.

Similar concepts

Interactive value creation

Crowdsourcing and interactive value creation are in principle very close, but must not be confused with one another, since interactive value creation relates more to the entrepreneur and neglects self-organized associations, which are, however, elementary for crowdsourcing . Interactive value creation often originates from consumer dissatisfaction and is concerned with developing a better solution.

Open innovation

Open Innovation emphasizes the open innovation process, which is also central to crowdsourcing . This means that external employees are involved in a previously internal value creation process (the innovation process). As with crowdsourcing , open innovation is also about overcoming company boundaries. The difference to crowdsourcing is that only innovations should be produced.

Open source

Open source mostly refers to software that can be used and further developed under an appropriately defined license . Similar to crowdsourcing , people living far apart can also be involved in a development process. Open source is also a possible form of crowdsourcing .

Social forecasting

Social forecasting is a business method to get predictions about future events from the collective knowledge of a group in virtual forecast exchanges. Social forecasting consciously combines crowdsourcing with an incentive mechanism. Companies use social forecasting to receive forecasts, analyzes and other values ​​from their employees for future-oriented questions.

Crowd knowledge sourcing

In the Stop Child Abuse project , Europol is asking the population to identify everyday objects from child pornographic film and photo material on a website. Europol hopes this will provide information on victims, crime scenes and perpetrators. The method is called crowd-knowledge-sourcing by the investigators .

Crowd-sourced delivery

Crowd-sourced delivery is a delivery concept that enables private individuals to act as deliverers. The concept works as follows: In the classic delivery service, a permanent employee acts as a supplier and a customer only as a customer. With crowd-sourced delivery, this separation is no longer so strict. A company creates the technical infrastructure and everyone can act as both a customer and a supplier. You just have to adhere to the company's guidelines. There are exemplary examples in Europe.

See also


  • Henry William Chresbrough: Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology. Harvard Business School Press, Boston MA 2003, ISBN 1-57851-837-7 .
  • Ralf Reichwald , Frank Piller , Christoph Ihl, Sascha Seifert: Interactive added value. Open innovation, individualization and new forms of division of labor. 2nd, completely revised and expanded edition. Gabler, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-8349-0972-5 .
  • James Surowiecki : The wisdom of the many, why groups are smarter than individuals and how we can use collective knowledge for our economic, social and political actions. (Original title: The wisdom of crowds , translated by Gerhard Beckmann). Bertelsmann, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-570-00687-5 . (also: Heyne Taschenbuch, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-442-15446-3 )
  • Christian Russ: Online Crowds: Mass phenomena and collective behavior on the Internet. VWH Verlag for media technology and economy, Boizenburg, 2010, ISBN 978-3-940317-67-4 .
  • Oliver Gassmann (Ed.): Crowdsourcing, innovation management with swarm intelligence. Hanser, Munich / Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-446-42334-3 .
  • Jeff Howe: Crowdsourcing. How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business. Crown Business Publishing, New York, NY 2008, ISBN 978-0-307-39620-4 .
  • Christian Papsdorf: How surfing becomes work. Crowdsourcing in Web 2.0. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York NY 2009, ISBN 978-3-593-39040-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Crowdsourcing  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jeff Howe: weblog, 2010
  3. ^ Ricardo Buettner: A Systematic Literature Review of Crowdsourcing Research from a Human Resource Management Perspective . In: IEEE (Ed.): 48th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), 2015 5-8 Jan. 2015, Kauai, Hawaii . 2015, ISBN 978-1-4799-7367-5 , pp. 4609-4618 , doi : 10.13140 / 2.1.2061.1845 ( ).
  4. ^ Jeff Howe: The Rise of Crowdsourcing., June 14, 2006, accessed August 1, 2012 .
  5. D. Michelis, T. Schildhauer: Social Media Handbook: Theories, Methods, Models and Practice. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2012, ISBN 978-3-8329-7121-2 , p. 134.
  6. Nicole Martin, Stefan Lessmann, Stefan Voss : Crowdsourcing: Systematisation of practical forms and related concepts. Institute for Information Systems, University of Hamburg 2008.
  7. Oliver Gassmann, E. Enkel: Towards a Theory of Open Innovation: Three Core Process. 2004. (
  8. How surfing becomes work. Crowdsourcing in Web 2.0 . 2009, p. 69.
  9. ^ S. Roth: The Diaspora as a Nation's Capital: Crowdsourcing Strategies for the Caucasus. In: International Journal of Transition and Innovation Systems. 1 (1), 2010, pp. 44-58. (
  10. Thomas Goerzen, Dennis Kundisch: Can the Crowd substitutes Experts in evaluation of Creative Ideas? An Experimental Study Using Business Models . In: AMCIS 2016 Proceedings . August 11, 2016 ( [accessed January 6, 2020]).
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  12. ^ D. Michelis, T. Schildhauer: Social Media Handbook. 2012, p. 134.
  13. ^ D. Michelis, T. Schildhauer: Social Media Handbook. 2012, p. 136.
  14. I. Jahnke, M. Prilla (2008), p. 132.
  15. ^ Eva Maria Simon: forecast exchanges The swarm is smarter than the experts. (
  16. ^ D. Michelis, T. Schildhauer: Social Media Handbook. 2012, p. 137.
  17. ^ Jeff Howe: The Rise of Crowdsourcing., June 14, 2006, archived from the original on March 21, 2014 ; accessed on February 17, 2017 .
  18. Axel Kolaschnik, Achim Schaffrinna: "The approach of the Trier University of Applied Sciences undermines the career opportunities of its own graduates". In: Design Diary. June 1, 2012, accessed February 17, 2017 .
  19. ^ Jonas Rest: Crowd Guru, Clickworker & Co .: Das App-Proletariat . In: April 21, 2015, archived from the original on July 12, 2016 ; accessed on February 17, 2017 .
  20. Jana Gioia Baurmann, Kolja Rudzio: Crowdworking: The new DIY enthusiasts . In: The time . April 21, 2016, archived from the original on January 22, 2017 ; accessed on February 17, 2017 .
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  22. Dirk Engel: Agencies - an endangered species? In: January 10, 2017, archived from the original on February 17, 2017 ; accessed on February 17, 2017 .
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  26. Map of Life: Google Maps Mashup brings us closer to nature ( Memento of the original from May 21, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , t3n, accessed May 18, 2012. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  27. Oliver Gassmann: Crowdsourcing - innovation management with swarm intelligence: - Find ideas interactively - Use collective knowledge effectively. 2nd Edition. Carl Hanser Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-446-43182-9 , p. 11ff.
  28. Manoj Narayanan: The Power of Crowd Testing. (PDF; 476 kB). Cognizant Technology Solutions , April 2011.
  29. Tanuj Vohra: Trends In Software Testing. ( Memento of December 28, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), April 8, 2009.
  30. Crowd testing providers / service providers in German-speaking countries ,, accessed on October 19, 2012.
  31. Testbirds takes a close look at apps. ( Memento of November 4, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), MobileBusiness, October 9, 2012.
  32. eBay relies on crowdtesting from passbrains , moneycab, September 19, 2012.
  33. D. Geiger, M. Rosemann, E. Fielt: Crowdsourcing information systems: a systems theory perspective. In: Proceedings of the 22nd Australasian Conference on Information Systems (ACIS 2011). 2011.
  34. Albarqouni et al. a .: AggNet: Deep Learning from Crowds for Mitosis Detection in Breast Cancer Histology Images IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging (TMI) . In: Special Issue on Deep Learning . vol. 35, no.5, 2016, p. 1313-1321 .
  35. ^ Bike Data Project. Retrieved February 16, 2019 .
  36. Andrea Back, u. a .: Web 2.0 and social media in business practice . 2012, pp. 82-91.
  37. Europol shows clues from child abuse images to track offenders. BBC , June 1, 2017, accessed June 3, 2017 .
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