Well, they are all application blocks leveraging their respective communities to better fulfill their goals.
At Lokad, we believe (like many others actually) that the future of enterprise software, such as ERP or CRM, will rely on Service-oriented Architecture (SOA is short) where each component of the system is largely decoupled from the other components, and eventually provided by independent software vendors.
Considering our initial question, let's note that
- Akismet collects blog comments from a crowd of blogs in order to better filter out the blog spam.
- reCAPTCHA (*) provides an anti-botnet filtering system to distinguish real human users from machines on the web.
- Lokad collects demand data from a crowd of companies in order to improve the overall forecast accuracy.
A modular approach gives much more flexibility to the enterprise to design an IT system that really fit its needs (rather than the other way around). Modularity also reduces the risks of being dragged down because one piece of system is completely obsolete due to lack of investment of one particular software vendor.
Yet another type of benefits brought by specialized actors (think Akismet for blog spam filtering) is that it suddenly becomes possible to leverage the community to deliver smarter behaviors: Akismet is using the information obtained on each blog to improve its spam filtering on all the other blogs.
Today, it seems like that the first wave of crowd-enabled enterprise components was mostly oriented toward security tasks. The raise of security standards such as OpenId are likely to push even further this componentization of security blocks within enterprise software.
Yet, we believe that the second wave of crowd-enabled components will be oriented toward business analytics, ranging from intellectual property management, customer behavior analysis to operations research. Obviously, we want Lokad to be a leading player in this second wave. :-)