Jonathan Zittrain

Stories by Jonathan Zittrain

  • The Internet Creates a New Kind of Sweatshop

    When hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, the Red Cross announced a toll-free telephone hotline to help victims and their families find each other. The hotline was quickly swamped. So the Red Cross turned to a little-known firm called -LiveOps, a company that recruits call agents from around the world and directs their tasks entirely through the Internet. Within three hours, it had arranged for 300 people to staff the phones. A few days later, the freelance agents had processed more than 17,000 calls.This success story—combining impressive numbers with a good cause—is an example of a new phenomenon: using the Internet not just to aggregate and access computing power, but also to find and direct brainpower. Invoking the current mania around cloud computing, where things your computer used to do now happen online, a new class of companies are promoting cloud labor. "Get fast turnaround times for jobs computers can't do," says one site. "Spool up thousands of people without...