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Crave Talk: Should Shareapic share its shekels?

Shareapic is one of a crop of user content-driven Web sites rewarding users with cold hard cash. We ask whether this is the future of the Internet, or a copyright minefield

Here's a thought: we Cravers, and doubtless you devoted Craveonauts, spend hours every day trawling -- and trolling -- the Internet. We'd probably spend our entire day surfing the Web if we didn't occasionally get tricked into leaving our computers by family and friends, with their crazy 'conversation', 'face-to-face contact', and 'meaningful social interaction'. Meanwhile the Facebooks and YouTubes rake in the moolah, and do we see a penny? Nowadays it seems like we can. Yesterday we Craved YouTube's Partner Program, and today we've been investigating Shareapic.

Shareapic.net is an image-hosting site, with one crucial difference: every user gets a cut of the site's advertising revenue. Total ad money is divvied up between users based on image views. As advertising money is driven by page views and traffic figures, the folks at Shareapic have recognised that as a user content-fuelled site it effectively makes money from our content. We're all working for these sites, and it seems it's time to draw a salary.

Is this the future of t'Internet? With sites such as YouTube and Capazoo catching on to the idea of rewarding users financially, could Web 2.0 turn into the big glorious collective we all dream of? Well, money being the root of all evil and that, some bloganthropes are concerned that such ideas will be magnets to spammers and copyright violators. Shareapic claims it has systems in place to curb such flim-flammery.

Still, copyright-wise image-hosting is something of a minefield. Googling a phrase can expose plagiarised text pretty quickly, and video- or music-sharing sites will smell a rat if Untraceable or Hard Day's Night gets uploaded in 5-minute chunks by someone calling themselves kryten2X4b-523p. But how do you tell if someone's nicked a picture of a cat off Flickr?

We'll wait and see whether the model works. In the meantime, we can't help but notice that Shareapic does feature a lot of ads. If nothing else, paying users out of the ad revenue may numb the pain of being bombarded by advertising. And yes, we know CNET.co.uk is an ad-supported site, but come on, that's why it's free! What more do you want? Money? Oh... -Richard Trenholm