It’s the 8th most visited website in the U.S. and the 13th most trafficked site in the world. The website bills itself as the “free encyclopedia,” providing knowledge free of charge to a global user base. However, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, hopes that some companies will pay for it.
Don’t worry, it’ll still likely be free for you, dear Mashable reader. But for companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, Wikipedia is hoping to charge them for publishing its content.
A new report by looks into a brand new division under the Wikimedia umbrella called Wikimedia Enterprise. In a first for the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Enterprise will offer a paid service targeting Wikipedia’s biggest users: Big Tech companies.
Wikimedia Enterprise, according to the organization, will provide a commercial product that tailors Wikipedia’s content for publication on services provided by Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon — services that millions upon millions of people use every day.
Input a query into Google and the search engine will often provide a snippet from Wikipedia right there on the page. Users don’t even have to leave Google’s search engine for their answer. Ask Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa a question and both the virtual assistants will dig into Wikipedia’s archives to spit out an answer for you. YouTube even depends on Wikipedia to fight misinformation on its video platform.
Wikipedia’s current cost to the multi-billion dollar tech conglomerates? Nothing. It’s completely free of charge.
In a 2018 , Wikimedia Foundation Chief Revenue Officer Lisa Seitz-Gruwell shared that while Wikipedia’s content is free to use by all, some companies were exploiting the organization by not reciprocating.
For now, Wikimedia Foundation’s $100 million budget is funded by donations from users and grant money provided to the Wikimedia Foundation. Some of the companies they’re looking to charge, like Google, have donated millions of dollars to the organization. The year Gruwell spoke to TechCrunch, however, the tech outlet pointed out that Amazon had donated nothing.
According to the Wikimedia Foundation, these companies currently have employees and, in some cases, entire teams, working on delivering Wikipedia’s content through its own systems. The paid service provided by Wikimedia Enterprise will help do that work for them and, in turn, bring in a new revenue stream for the nonprofit.
Obviously, Wikipedia will continue to be free for its regular global user base. In fact, Wikimedia’s Seitz-Gruwell tells Wired that the free service currently being used by Google and the other Big Tech companies will continue to be available to even those for-profit corporations.
So will Big Tech kick back some of its profits to Wikipedia, a service that has provided them so much free content for years? According to Wikimedia Foundation, the organization is already in talks with these companies and deals may be reached as early as June.
A more pressing question, however, is how will Wikipedia’s army of volunteers react? The organization has depended on its volunteers to actually create, research, update, moderate, and fact-check it’s content since the website’s founding. Will they view this as Wikipedia selling out? Will some want compensation for their work in return? Big Tech has been profiting off of services utilizing Wikipedia at no-charge for years. Now that Wikipedia looks to get paid, will its volunteers look to be compensated too?
Update: March 16, 2021, 7:55 p.m. ET: The original story contained a sentence that read, “However, the nonprofit which runs Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, hopes that it soon won’t be free for everybody.” For the sake of clarity, we changed it to, “However, the nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation, hopes that some companies will pay for it.”