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Google & Wikipedia

Heebie Sudoku [PersonRank 5]

Monday, April 16, 2007
12 years ago12,273 views

I've been thinking about it, and what if Google bought Wikipedia?

===Why Google would do it===
* It's in their philosophy (look at google.com/corporate/tenthings ... and Wikipedia checks most of those boxes, "Democracy on the web works" particularly stands out)
* Their dream of organizing the world's information would come (more) true
* They could serve up relevant text ads for each article
* They could help sensor it for China....
* Wikipedia could be used to subtly promote their other services

===Why Wikipedia would accept===
* No more asking for donations with Google's unlimited cash supply
* Pages will load fast, entries might get a Docs 'n' Spreadsheets-esque WYSIWYG form
* Google would take other steps to make sure that spam and ease-of-use increases
...and more, probably.

So it's a win-win situation, apart from maybe the whole "Google's taking over the world" thing. And there might be a small complication with the fact that Wikimedia's a charity, I'm not sure if that means Google won't be allowed to take it over, or whether they'd have to do it via google.org which might be a bit messy....

Anyway, add your thoughts ;)

Conor Cleary [PersonRank 8]

12 years ago #

Why Wikipedia wouldn't:
Their founder is a psycho intent on controlling everything.... hah

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Wikipedia is not a company, it's a foundation. You can't just buy it.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

<<Pages will load fast>>

You can always use Google cache to load pages faster and save some bandwidth.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I don't think the ship captain would sell his crew to a corporation. People would also have less incentives to contribute.

Jeff Greco [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

Google's offered before, and Wikipedia has refused, and will continue to.

"* No more asking for donations with Google's unlimited cash supply"
Asking for donations has worked fine, and maintains their independence.

"* Pages will load fast, entries might get a Docs 'n' Spreadsheets-esque WYSIWYG form"
If Wikipedia wanted WYSIWYG, they'd implement it. It's not exactly hard to do, there are a number of open source utilities along those lines.

"* Google would take other steps to make sure that spam and ease-of-use increases"
That's just so vague. How can Google stop more spam while they can't even keep spam off of Blogger?

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

People would just stop donating their work to Wikipedia. I know I would.

Jason Hall [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

I thought Wikipedia was listed as a non-profit organization, thus it can't be bought by anybody, ever.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Google bought a software from a non-profit last month (Gapminder).

Heebie Sudoku [PersonRank 5]

12 years ago #

Well, yes; I did have my doubts about the whole non-profit thing.

As for the other comments, I suppose you're right. I had this idea in my head that Google's robots could recognize spam (for keeping out of search results) but that doesn't seem to be the case.

And I think people would stop donating their work – however, if Google was a "nice owner" then people might come back. There'd be a HUGE outcry if it happened, but I think eventually the dust would settle and Google would be working its ass off to try and please the writers and encourage more people to write. And Google has a lot of power.

Again, I understand that donations work fine, but let's face it – it would be a damn sight easier just asking for millions of dollars from Google.

I often wonder why Wikipedia don't use a WYSIWYG editor – surely it would be better? My guess is perhaps they think that that sort of editor would encourage spam as people wouldn't have taken the time to learn how the wiki syntax works.

Anyway; as maybe isn't clear from my post – I'm not suggesting that this is a good idea, merely opening the topic up for discussion.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> I often wonder why Wikipedia don't use a WYSIWYG
> editor – surely it would be better?

"Wikipedian" Mathias Schinder once said:

<<Q: Wikipedia has a special editing syntax which can get pretty advanced. Did Wikipedians ever ponder to provide a dynamic “WYSIWYG” rich-text editor to make life easier for not-so-regulars?

A: “Pretty advanced” is a nice way of saying that reading this stuff is sometimes a nightmare. The demand for WYSIWYG is there and there is a bunch of reasons to have or reject it. WYSIWYG editors might have a tendency in encouraging people to “make pages look nice.” Of course, this usually applies only to their set of browser, screen resolution, output medium. A WYSIWYG editor would have to take that into account. On the other hand, having seen collaboration work in Writ^wGoogle Docs, this might be a really important feature to us if we are interested in reaching out to people whose second language is not geek. There is a strange hack in the wilderness to include FCKeditor into MediaWiki.>>
blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-0 ...

Mambo [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

<< There is a strange hack in the wilderness to include FCKeditor into MediaWiki. >>

God, if they ever included that FCKEditor in Wikipedia, that would be terrible. That RTE is so lame and unorganised.

Zim [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

It's true... It would be nice for them, and for us -users-. I'm tired of reading wikipedia on top of every search I do...
And I hate the editor. It's no-sense to create that wikilanguage, I can't understand it easy without reading what's the meaning of things. (but I can read HTML though)
Anyway, I'm sure Google would have a great idea to change the editor to something better than what we can imagine.

Mambo [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I think Google acquiring Wikipedia would be a disaster, if it was integrated with the Google search. It would be too exposed, and therefore more vandals will be tempted by editing the pages, leading to a total mess (much like Google Video's "labelling" and "commenting" system).

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

I agree with a lot of what has been said above. I don't think Google would get much out of the purchase of Wikipedia. If they put ads up they might piss off the user base that has grown around Wikipedia. Without the users adding more content, it wouldn't be as useful.

Mikey [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

Why doesn't just Google donate some cash to Wikipedia? That would be a nice gesture!

Or Wikipedia implements AdSense, like all people do on their blogs :) You can have a choice then:
1. donate money or your work = use ad-free version (and have good conscience&karma)
2. do not do anything = use ad-version (good conscience)
3. do not do anything = use ad-free (baaad conscience&karma!).

But still, Wikipedia is kinda built on the idea of personal&society benefiting of free knowledge and volunteerism and anything like advertising would spoil it (like PR did in all charities). Maybe the governments should sponsor it.

jim's tips [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

1. "people would stop donating articles" argument
I personally don't agree with this argument. Yes, some contributors will leave, but I don't see it as an issue. Look at Google Groups. When Google "took over" USENET, did the popularity of Google Groups or USENET drop off? Certainly not. In fact, it flourishes. No, it isn't your father's USENET, but it is definitely more accessible and user-friendly. I'm not saying that Wikipedia should sell to Google, but I don't think Google purchasing it would really hurt it. In fact, it's possible that it might gain some more legitimacy in some users' eyes. Unfortunately, bad press of bad articles has not done anything good for Wikipedia.

2. WISIWIG interface
This is an area that I think needs serious improvement. Wikipedia's interface certainly isn't bad, but it could defninitely be improved. The problem lies in providing the necessary tools and "canned" formatting be able to to develop and maintain the fairly complex style layouts of most of Wikipedia's pages. One of the things that makes Wikipedia pleasing to use (to me, anyway) is the fairly consistent and predictable layout among articles. Maybe if a WISIWIG editor could effectively and effortlessly maintain consistent stylistic elememts, more users would be more inclined to contribute?

Jack Hynes [PersonRank 6]

12 years ago #

The only good that could come out of a deal like this is Wikipedia using Google search as default. Their own search is terrible showing redirects and not helping if there is a spelling error.

I believe this deal will never happen, Google may integrate Wikipedia into it's own search results more (i.e. SearchMash) but won't be able to buy the wiki.

Mark O'Neill [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

The whole beauty of Wikipedia is that it is a wonderful website with NO advertising to get in the way. Now imagine Wikipedia with Google Adsense splashed all over the page! Uuugh! No thanks. Next thing you know, there'll be Gmail, Picasa and Google Docs integration.

I am a big fan of Google but Wikipedia is one area where Google should just back off. People like Wikipedia because of its neutrality and independence. But if Google took over and started putting targeted ads on pages, people would wonder if the information on the page was truly neutral and impartial, or if the information was tailored to suit the advert on the page. In other words, people wouldn't trust the information on Wikipedia anymore.

The last time I looked, Wikipedia did really well with donations (over a million dollars). So I don't think they are exactly strapped for cash.

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Google already benefits from Wikipedia. I know I still go to Google to search for Wikipedia pages just because (i) it's an easier URL to type (or I do it from my home page / browser search box) and (ii) it's easier to find things.

Google also "borrows" Wikipedia content for OneBox results, meaning people don't even have to visit Wikipedia.

Why buy something that you can borrow indefinitely?

Jon Henshaw [PersonRank 4]

12 years ago #

You mean they don't own them already? You wouldn't know it by the search results. It's like Google and Wikipedia are BFF already in the SERPs.

Josh Garner [PersonRank 0]

12 years ago #

Actually, Jimmy Wales went on record (most notably in 'Fast Company') that he is going to target the search market. Turns out Larry Page can beat him at kite sailing, and Mr. Wales needed something to get him back at. The real question is, would a Wiki-esque search engine work well enough to beat Google.

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> I personally don't agree with this argument.
> Yes, some contributors will leave, but I don't
> see it as an issue. Look at Google Groups.

Those are completely different things. You don't donate your charitable work to Google Groups. It's just a tool for your joy and learning. Just like this private (Philip's) forum.

People are working on Wikipedia because of it's ideas. Without them Wikipedia would be literally nothing.

> WYSIWYG editors might have a tendency
> in encouraging people to “make pages look nice.”

I don't do WYSIWYG editors on any CMSs I do for different sites for this very reason. I don't like to see "pretty" pink font in the articles.

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Haven't we had this conversation before?

google.com/search?q=%22google+ ...

Zoran [PersonRank 3]

12 years ago #

You are all kidding right?

There is more and more anti-Google electricity in the air I feel it in each byte of new user "generated" content.

Carsten Cumbrowski [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

The problem with a WYSIWYG Editor for Wikipedia is, that the editor must either be able to understand the mix of Wikitext (meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Help:E ...) and HTML of the current content, or all 1.x million articles + several more million Talk, User, Project and Meta Pages must be converted over night.

It won't work otherwise. There were quite some discussion about it and I also know a bit about it, because I implemented FCKeditor in a Wiki with existing content myself. I could not set the editor as the default, because it would mess up all existing pages, if loaded into the editor.

More read about the editor and the issues with it (or any other solution that can not handle old and new content perfectly.

Meta WIki Page for FCKeditor
meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FCKedi ...

Even bigger, the TALK page for FCKeditor :)
meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:F ...

Cheers!

Varun Mahajan [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

To me wikipedia showing google Adsense in right bar does make a lot of sense. Even that is a win-win situation

Colin Colehour [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

If they started displaying ads though how many people would start asking about getting part of that revenue? They did create the content so why not share in the payout.

Santhros [PersonRank 0]

12 years ago #

If (hypothetycally speaking) Google adquires Wikipedia would the result be similar to Goo-Tube?

Mathias Schindler [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Well, buying Wikipedia (whether this is even possible) would be pointless. Google (and everyone else) can already access the raw text at download.wikimedia.org

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Heh Mathias, I love the way that your avatar is an upside-down Wikipedia favicon!

Anyway, what is there for Google to buy? All of the content is released under the Gnu Free Documentation License. If Google could somehow buy the Wikimedia Foundation, someone else would host the same content the next day, start collecting donations, and become the "new Wikipedia".

Imagine if Google could have bought the YouTube buildings, business and staff, but anyone else could host all of the YouTube content on their own site. In that situation, Google wouldn't have bought YouTube, and if they did buy it they wouldn't succeed at retaining the users.

AjiNIMC [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #

Google can use wikipedia for better ads.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> If they started displaying ads though how many
> people would start asking about getting part of that revenue?

Imagine Wikipedia *would* share revenue! "You are the 1,000th person to edit this article, please grab your $100 price" :)
Oh well, the quality might go downhill as people start to do lots of editing for money only.

Ludwik Trammer [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> someone else would host
> the same content the next day

Of course. I'm sure that bunch of Wikipedia admins would get Wikipedia content (it's on open license) and Wikipedia software (it's also on open license) and start an Independent Wikipedia project.

The whole thing won't happen, anyway, because we are talking about a non-profit organization. Nobody is going to buy Amnesty International or Greenpeace, and Wikipedia is exactly the same. The very purpose of this organization is to maintain Wikipedia, they can't use money for other purposes than those from their charter anyway...

Mathias Schindler [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Oh, that reminds me: If you happen to speak German and want to contribute to Wikipedia and still love the taste of money, you might want to participate in the Wikimedia Deutschland Zedler Award Prize Money Thing.

wikimedia.de/2007/04/zedler-me ...

trailhead [PersonRank 1]

12 years ago #


   Well I wonder if there isn't room for co-operation in any event. Google could splash their front door with a million dollar bills and not miss it.

   Google already includes their results... as ppl have mentioned.

   The attempt at the 'smart web' or 'semantic web' or whatever ppl call it where real ppl edit results for authenticity is not exactly breaking records. Wikipedia is well along in that stuff... and if Google had access to their content for search results then it would be in their interest, without the expense of buying them... to throw a bit of money at them from time to time... just to make sure they continue to have access to the articles for the search results.

   No?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

One more bit via Mathias Schindler:

<<Asked if [Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales] would be willing to sell to the big guns like Google and Yahoo, he said no>>
news24.com/News24/Technology/N ...

TOMHTML [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Who's the best? Google OR Wikipedia?
google.com/search?hl=en&q= ...


img177.imageshack.us/img177/26 ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

Interesting test. Sometimes word order matters, sometimes it doesn't.

pepsi OR coke -> pepsi is first
coke OR pepsi -> coke is first

wikipedia OR google -> wikipedia is first
google OR wikipedia -> wikipedia is first

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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