Wikipedia crosses the “free” as it plots a way to charge some companies for using its services to advance their missions. The new product is called Wikimedia Enterprise: “This is the first time the foundation has recognized that commercial users are users of our service. We’ve known they are there, but we never really treated them as a user base,” said Lane Becker, a senior director at the foundation, who is overseeing the Enterprise project”. They will launch it later in 2021.
Wikipedia, the world’s most popular free encyclopedia, is planning to charge big tech companies for publishing their information.
The online encyclopedia was created by Larry Sanger in 2001 to provide valuable global information free of charge. Wikipedia is run by volunteers of writers and editors around the world, and has been functioning on donations as a non-profit powered by Wikimedia Foundation.
Over the years, Wikipedia has grown to become a source of knowledge to the world. It is the 8th most visited site in the United States and 13th in the world, welcoming knowledge seekers, and offering detailed knowledge about the tech industry free of charge, but that is about change.
Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft have had their information published on Wikipedia’s site for years, now Wikimedia is creating a brand new division called Wikimedia Enterprise that will offer paid services to the biggest gainers of the free encyclopedia.
I wish them good luck. The fact is this: Wikipedia and all Search Engine Optimization (SEO) engineers work for Google free, and get little back. Yes, when you hire a SEO engineer, you are essentially doing all for Google to make money from your websites. Of course, you get better if great Google can do that on your services! But while you could extract something from Google blessing (sell your services to visitors), for Wikipedia, the story is different. For years, a company that has been powering Google’s multi-billion dollar aggregation business, is constantly begging for peanuts to fund its small annual budget!
Yet, now that Wikipedia wants to fix its money problems, expect Wikipedia to be making it regularly to the US Congress once it starts collecting money. It may think it is a small company. No way. Congress will like to know how it decides which companies it shares data with, including “America’s adversaries”.
And then, the big one: activists. Simply, Wikipedia will realize that having more US dollars will mean it needs to have a strong PR department!
Comment: For some reason, I am not happy with the thought of commercializing any aspect of Wikipedia. I’d rather work for free for them in running a campaign to get them all the funding they need to keep their services free and available to all.
While I do not know the extent to which they intend to go commercial, I am mortally afraid of adding any aspect of commerce to it. Commercialization is like a very potent viral disease, one taste of it and you are gone.
So now I feel very guilty for not having responded to all the ads I see each time I used their services.
Is it too late to stop this process?
My response: This is the fact: do you have resources to make free things better? If not, you have no future because paid services, digitally, are getting cheaper due to marginal cost efficiency. So, being free is not enough. Wikipedia is struggling to innovate and having more resources will help it. While we hope it stays to its core, the fact is this: to become better, it needs money to attract talent. Check how many entries it has for Zamfara state. Check for remote areas of Gambia. Check in other places. With more resources, it can fund those works and get the world better content! Being free and mediocre should not be celebrated.
Follow-Up Response: The first thing that comes to mind when you say being free and mediocre should not be celebrated is the UN and WHO. I do believe that a better response would be for Wikipedia to ramp up it’s brand management and get the funding it needs from even such companies as Google who make money off their backs. It is a worthy enterprise.
My Response: There is no comparison between the positioning of UN/WHO and Wikipedia. UN/WHO has revenue mandated by edicts since countries have to send money yearly. In short, it is the best subscription business since it is sovereign subscription – every country pays. You get the idea. I am not sure there is any organization that is mandated by sovereign powers to give to Wikipedia.
“I do believe that a better response would be for Wikipedia to ramp up it’s brand management and get the funding it needs from even such companies as Google who make money off their backs. ” – the goat which is owned by the whole community usually dies of starvation. That is the challenge for Wikipedia. I like its new plan – why give our $1 billion value and be begging for $10 million when you can ask the person to pay $200m from that $1B value. Provided the editorial work is separated from this alpha venture, it will be better.
It has no entry on my village and that is not good. It needs to have resources to fund that!
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