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CNET News.com: On the Net, there is such a thing as free labor

Sep 07, 1999, 18:49 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jim Hu)

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"A growing number of Internet companies, including Netscape, Lycos, and Deja.com, are using volunteers instead of salaried staff to build their content directories. ... America Online is one company that may pay the price: It faces a class-action suit and Department of Labor scrutiny over its use of volunteer 'Community Leader' guides on its proprietary service."

"Last November, Netscape jump-started the trend when it acquired a small user-generated Web directory called NewHoo. Similar to Yahoo's offering, the idea behind NewHoo--which Netscape renamed the Open Directory Project--was to create a Web search directory using human editorial judgment instead of technology."

"According to labor attorney Victor Van Bourg, workers deemed 'volunteers' contribute labor to government organizations, charities, and nonprofits--not to companies. 'There's no such thing as volunteers for other companies,' Van Bourg said. 'That's called slavery.' "

" 'People contributing to sites, directories, and content areas on the Internet are the DNA of the Internet,' a Netscape spokesman said. 'Open Directory is an incredible project that illustrates the power of the Web and people taking control of their Internet experience.'

Like Linux or Apache, two software movements that solicit outside software developers to improve the products, Netscape said its Open Directory Project is another example of using the Web to advance innovation. The Open Directory Project has grown from 100,000 sites with 4,500 contributing editors when Netscape acquired NewHoo to more than 900,000 Web sites and more than 15,000 editors, Netscape said. ... Netscape also has decided to license its Open Directory to companies for free."

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