Microwork may be the most niche form of online labor there is: it doesn’t pay very much, but it does get quite a lot of work done by spreading tasks far and wide. Usually, this involves transcribing media, data entry, filling out surveys, and viewing ads – or any other brief tasks.
At first glance, microwork doesn’t look like much, but it is in fact quite commonplace. A recent study from the World Bank found that, in 2013, there were over 500,000 active microworkers worldwide. This accounted for 12% of all online work. Six years later, the numbers are likely to be even higher.
Number of online workers in 2013, via the World Bank’s “Global opportunity in online outsourcing” report.
Traditionally, microwork has been dominated by Amazon mTurk, but cryptocurrency has the potential to disrupt the market. Low transaction fees make cryptocurrencies ideal for micropayments, and smart contracts are an effective way of coordinating tasks and preventing counterparty risk. But can crypto really deliver on this promise?
Where To Earn Crypto
There are already several crypto-based microwork sites. One of the most notable is CoinWorker, which was launched in 2012 as one of the first ever Bitcoin-based microwork sites. If you’re looking for something more recent, Expand (formerly known as Gems) provides an Ethereum-based alternative.
Some crypto-based microwork apps are also available for mobile users. Storm is aiming to deliver “gamified” microtasking to the masses. Meanwhile, Vodi X is attempting to provide user-friendly payouts by combining crypto with redeemable rewards, such as gift cards and phone plan top-ups.
Finally, there’s a brand new EOS-based microwork site, Effect Force. It went live in mid-July, and it’s largely concerned with producing data for AI training. Of course, there are many other crypto-based microwork sites apart from those listed here, but many of them are far smaller.
Is It Worth Your Time?
Unfortunately, many microwork sites aren’t very accessible. Coinworker is currently down, and Gems had just one task available when we visited its portal. Effect Force requires an EOS account before you get started, and that costs a few dollars. Finally, Storm and Vodi X require users to download an app, which might deter casual users.
With such low availability, it’s not surprising that so many microwork sites became defunct almost immediately. For example, Taskopus was a seemingly promising microwork site that offered Bitcoin Cash payouts. However, it vanished from the web without a trace shortly after going live in March.
That said, crypto-based microwork sites do offer competitive compensation when they actually have tasks available. Coinworker pays about $0.005 to $0.25 worth of BTC for each task. This is roughly on par with Amazon mTurk, which, by most accounts, allows you to earn about $2 per hour.
Why Is the Landscape So Barren?
There are a few reasons why crypto-based microwork isn’t really thriving. First of all, crypto startups move quite slowly. They need to abide by regulations, attract task providers, and ensure that their microwork service is thoroughly tested. Many microwork services have barely come out of beta.
On top of this, coordination could be an issue: it is easier to attract microworkers than to attract task providers. This isn’t a peer-to-peer industry; it requires investment from task providers who actually need to get things done on time. That could explain why so many sites have failed to take off.
Finally, microwork has a pretty serious image problem. Critics of microwork argue that the industry is exploitative, while its defenders argue that microwork provides opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Others see microwork as just a chance to earn pocket money – and, as such, microwork has yet to truly find its place.
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