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Wikipedia to Finally Ask Big Tech Companies to Pay Up

Updated: May 10, 2021

May 5, 2021


Wikipedia and Google have been in a long-term, unspoken partnership in which Wikipedia creates the information that Google produces as results to queries, and in return Google strengthens Wikipedia’s reputation as a trustworthy source of information. The two companies have grown in tandem over the past 20 years, with each becoming a household name in its own right. However, while one has become a trillion-dollar company, the other remains a midsized non-profit that relies on the generosity of its users and grant-giving foundations to stay afloat. Wikipedia is now attempting to recalibrate its relationship with Google and other big tech firms like Amazon, Facebook and Apple, whose platforms rely heavily on Wikipedia as a cost-free tool.

Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia along with other wiki-projects, has announced the launch of its commercial product, Wikimedia Enterprise. The product aims to deliver efficient and streamlined delivery of Wikipedia content to these big tech companies. “This is the first time the foundation has recognized that commercial users are users of our service,” says Lane Becker, a senior director at the Foundation, who has been ramping up the Enterprise project with a small team. “We’ve known they are there, but we never really treated them as a user base.” The Foundation has already begun conversations with these online behemoths and anticipates agreements with these companies as early as June.

Until now, Wikipedia has provided large tech companies with bi-weekly snapshots of everything that appears on their site. This advanced notice is how companies import Wikipedia content onto their platforms without any further assistance from the Foundation. The inconvenience with this strategy is that Wikipedia delivers this information in a “clunky” format that does not typically conform with the formats employed by big tech companies. According to Becker, many of these companies have large in-house teams dedicated solely to Wikipedia management.

Wikimedia Enterprise is Wikipedia’s solution to this problem. Enterprise will deliver to its clients real-time changes and comprehensive data dumps in a compatible format. The solution will also include “a level of customer service typical of business arrangements but unprecedented for the volunteer-directed project.”

The contractual relationship associated with Wikimedia Enterprise will also more formally recognize that these big companies are extracting value from Wikipedia and must therefore “contribute back to the commons,” said Seitz-Gruwell, the Foundation’s chief revenue officer. If successful, Wikimedia Enterprise could prove to be Wikipedia’s perfect solution, allowing it to stay true to its core principles and mission statement, while evolving to meet the needs of the current climate.

Author: Shadi Varkiani


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