As with Second Life, the business has a virtual currency for buying, selling or bestowing tasks as gifts. Coffee and Power takes a 15 percent fee for moving the money back into real dollars.
The site has been active since spring with little fanfare. It attracted fewer than 700 transactions, but is now starting to actively solicit buyers and sellers.
“About 25 percent of our site is needs, and the rest is offers,” Mr. Rosedale said. “We’ll need about 10,000 jobs before we know what the final balance is like.”
Besides putting downward pressure on what people can charge, the low prices also raise questions about the quality of the services. That is one reason that Mr. Rosedale is publicizing that he used cheap labor to build his own site.
He paid about $200,000 to build Coffee and Power, he said, using an earlier version of the service called Worklist. Every step in the development process is visible on the site, including the amount people have been paid for their work. An Australian working under the name Lithium has earned $46,523 since January, for example.
Another test project, called Hudat, is an iPhone application that converts pictures of Facebook and LinkedIn friends into online flashcards. The idea is that a person can review images before attending a party. It cost $2,600 to build, a fraction of what work like this normally costs, and was built in two weeks. The process is open for anyone to see.