Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Crowdsourcing

Full Definition of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is the use of large numbers of users, or a ‘crowd’, to achieve an organizational outcome. The term was first coined in 2006 in a Wired magazine article, written by Jeff Howe.

Taking a job that is normally carried out by an employee, an internal team, or a contractor, and asking a community to help solve the problem instead.

The job is put out in an open call, meaning that anyone can contribute to the job. If the community is well-formed, that is, if it based on shared interests or beliefs, then greater expertise will be found within that group collectively than from individuals.

Historical Roots Of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is not as new an activity as the name might suggest. As far back as 1714, the British navy was struggling to find a better way of helping ships to navigate and accurately plot their position and course. With the help of the British government, the Longitude prize was offered to whoever could solve the problem.

In the nineteenth century, the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled by members of academia and the general public submitting millions of written word definitions to the editors.

Crowdsourcing in the Age of the Internet

The internet has enabled crowdsourcing to take place an unprecedented scale.

Open Source Software

The open-source community has contributed to the development of many of the core technologies used by the internet itself, including the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, the PHP programming language and the MySQL database (collectively known as the ‘LAMP’ stack.). The code for open source software is publicly available and has been developed and tested by thousands of community members.

It is freely available to members of the public, but without support or warranty. In order to have support contracts, commercial organisations with links to the open-source community (often containing authors of key pieces of code) will need to be engaged.

Furthermore, if any members of the public make modifications to the software that will be useful for others, they would be expected to contribute that back to the community.

Mass Contribution Websites

Perhaps the most famous example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia, the modern-day equivalent of the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It has been estimated that a hundred million hours of time have been contributed without any financial remuneration. Fourteen million pages of content have been indexed by Google, and they normally appear at the top of search results for that topic.

The once pre-eminent Encyclopaedia, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, has seen its fortunes decline as it tries to compete with hundreds of thousands of contributors who pride themselves at the speed and accuracy of their updates.

Commercial Uses Of Crowdsourcing

Popular online community site Facebook has crowd-sourced the translation of its site into other languages.

T-shirt company Threadless invites members of the public both to design T-shirts and then to vote on them. The most popular are then printed.

Stock image library iStockPhoto allows amateur photographers to upload their images and sell them as stock photos, often at a tiny fraction of the prices previously charged, and to take a share of the resulting revenue.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Crowdsourcing. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 21, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Crowdsourcing. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 21, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Crowdsourcing. Retrieved September 21, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Crowdsourcing are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 28th March, 2020 | 2 Views.