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It has long been a given that the internet’s inexhaustible usefulness comes courtesy of millions of people willing to provide everything from gossip to software and services at no cost. But is it still inevitable that most people joining the digital age will never profit from their contributions? Increasingly, it seems, the answer may be no.

Take HubPages: a user-generated content site founded in 2006, which this October gained its millionth page. While resources like Wikipedia are created entirely by voluntary activities, HubPages has an explicitly commercial footing. Users create individual pages, in the style of in-depth magazine articles, about…

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