Chris Anderson in Wired:
First, steam power replaced muscle power and launched the Industrial Revolution. Then Henry Ford’s assembly line, along with advances in steel and plastic, ushered in the Second Industrial Revolution. Next came silicon and the Information Age. Each era was fueled by a faster, cheaper, and more widely available method of production that kicked efficiency to the next level and transformed the world.
Now we have armies of amateurs, happy to work for free. Call it the Age of Peer Production. From Amazon.com to MySpace to craigslist, the most successful Web companies are building business models based on user-generated content. This is perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of the second-generation Web. The tools of production, from blogging to video-sharing, are fully democratized, and the engine for growth is the spare cycles, talent, and capacity of regular folks, who are, in aggregate, creating a distributed labor force of unprecedented scale.
The evidence is all around us. There are standard-bearers like Wikipedia and Yahoo’s Flickr photo-sharing service. There are entire realms that Second Life users are creating from scratch. And there is the enormous audience that YouTube has conjured with its idiotproof video-sharing technology.