While the Internet has allowed people all around the world to find freelance work at the click of a button, it also has created a situation where these online workers are sometimes exploited or simply not paid for their work. Microwork.io is a startup that plans to put power back into the hands of the freelancer and allow the poor all over the world to earn a decent wage.
Microwork.io founder and CEO Andy Gough recently spoke to Bitcoin Magazine and answered a few questions about his new project. He described how blockchain technology can be used to “free workers all over the world from exploitation and abuse.”
Gough’s hopes for Microwork.io
Microwork.io is best described as a more open variation of Amazon Mechnical Turk. Although most freelancer websites seem to focus on the employer side of the equation, it’s clear that Microwork.io plans to help all of the freelancers in the world who have dealt with dishonest clients in the past.
“Workers will always have a voice with us,” Gough said. “We are building our site with input from the workers to determine best practices and processes, and we hope to blaze a trail that will light up millions – and later billions – of the world’s poor to a life without poverty.”
Gough also noted that the platform will enforce a minimum wage on all contracts. Many users also may not even realize that bitcoin is being used for payments under the hood.
“Our users will mainly have no familiarity with bitcoin and the blockchain, so we also allow users to have their tasks deposit money directly in their bank accounts or some other method,” Gough said. “For example, our users in the Philippines can select a smart task, do the work, and then the money will be deposited directly in their bank account as pesos. These users need not know that bitcoin is invoked, which we feel is crucial to onboard the 99 percent.”
Full verification of work via smart contracts
Perhaps the most innovative, and somewhat sci-fi, feature of Microwork.io is the ability to finalize contracts without the help of a third party. Although it obviously will not work for every type of job posted on the platform, there are certain tasks that can be confirmed via smart contracts checking the status of a certain data feed on the Internet. For example, a smart contract can check to see if a specific type of code has been added to a GitHub repository or a tweet has been sent out by a specific Twitter account.
With these sorts of “smart tasks,” the completion of certain projects can be verified via a smart contract oracle system rather than a subjective third party. This feature has the potential to help workers avoid online jobs where the employer decides to not pay an employee after the work has been completed.
Microwork.io also will have an arbitration section for jobs that are unable to be completely verified via a smart contract. Gough was able to explain what would happen in a situation where the two parties on a contract disagree on the outcome of the project:
“When this happens, the original smart task spawns a predefined number of other arbitration smart tasks, which can then be picked up by members of the community,” he said. “Arbitration smart tasks employ users to examine the original smart task requirements and vote to determine if the terms of the contract have been filled or not. These new contracts are funded by a percentage of the original smart task’s funds.”
Bitcoin for payments, Thelonious for reputation, and Codius for smart contracts
Microwork.io takes advantage of a variety of technologies in the blockchain ecosystem to create their market for smart tasks. Bitcoin is the only option for payments at this time, although (as mentioned above) many users will not even notice that bitcoin is being used behind the scenes.
A customized Thelonious blockchain is used for Microwork.io’s reputation system. Thelonious is a blockchain platform built by Eris Industries that was originally based on the Ethereum blockchain. The high level of customization offered by Thelonious made it the right choice for Microwork.io during the development process. As Gough noted, “Thelonious was used because at that time it was the only blockchain designer that could do what I wanted, but, as you know, bitcoin moves fast.”
Microwork.io is currently seeking seed funding in order to bring their vision to as many people around the world as possible.
Kyle Torpey is a freelance writer and researcher who has been following Bitcoin since 2011. His work has been featured in VICE Motherboard, Business Insider, NASDAQ, New York Post,The Next Web, American Banker, and other media outlets. You can view all his work at kyletorpey.com or sign up for his personal newsletter.