What Is Citizenship On The Internet?

Lately, crowdsourcing is almost a dirty word. It wasn’t too long ago that crowdsourcing was all the rage, but more recently, online communities have become much more sophisticated. They increasingly want to be participants in the experiences they contribute to online, not just products.

Lyft drivers have self-organized on Facebook, over the airwaves using Voxer, and their voice has great agency in how the corporate team makes business decisions. Peers catalyzes Etsy sellers, AirBnB hosts, and Getaround drivers to lead public policy. Amazing businesses we look up to like KickstarterGitHub, and Meetup are member-powered companies today; marketplace decisions made by their management teams consider those members as citizens, rather than simply users, or worse still, as the product itself.

As I’ve considered marketplaces and peer networks as Internet cities, I’ve realized that tools to empower the citizenry of these cities is one of the most exciting opportunities and challenges we face today. We have invested in Guild to insure platforms that face underwriting challenges in p2p transactions, in Modria to create infrastructure for dispute resolution on these platforms, and in a few very exciting other projects that we will announce soon.

And here’s the exciting part: we’re just getting started. If new online communities are Internet cities, we will increasingly see the crowd have formal agency, and even stake, in the platforms where they work. Crowdfunding is only at the tip of its iceberg, and has already affected culture across categories, and will continue to do so. One can imagine where Alphaworks takes their product. The concept of a mutual company, provocatively described by some friends across the internet, will get more air time in the coming years.

There is a path forward where genuine crowd participation in every business will be the norm, rather than an experimental feature. That path is an exciting one, indeed.


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