© The Financial Times Ltd 2014 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
Will some online users pay to preserve a free service for all? Wikipedia’s fundraising efforts seem to show that they will – but only if it is not founder Jimmy Wales personally asking for the money, writes Andy Bounds
This screen on the left is what greeted visitors to Wikipedia on Wednesday, as the online encyclopedia site began its ‘blackout’ protest of two controversial intellectual property bills currently being discussed in the US Congress.
For 24 hours starting from 5am GMT on Wednesday, Wikipedia blocked users from viewing or editing all of its English-language pages except for the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, the bills it is protesting against.
Wikipedia confirmed that it would black out all English language versions of its website around the globe this Wednesday, in opposition to two proposed anti-piracy laws in the US.
More than 1800 “Wikipedians” discussed various protest actions they could take to stall the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), and late on Monday, settled on the 24-hour blackout, to begin at 5 a.m. UTC/GMT on Wednesday.
Wikipedia is planning an online “blackout” on Wednesday, in protest against proposed US legislation intended to stem web piracy.
Not so long ago, I heard a senior internet executive expressing bemusement over the fact that Google had so notably failed to offer any financial support to the cash-starved Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit that runs Wikipedia.
After all, there is a clear symbiosis here. The majority of Wikipedia’s traffic comes from search engines (60-70 per cent was the estimate I was given by Jimmy Wales recently.)
Likewise, Google benefits tremendously from the existence of a massive source of free reference material online. Indeed, many internet searches are started with the aim of finding an article on Wikipedia.
Citizendium was meant to represent an advance on Wikipedia. Compared to the flame wars and defacement that occasionally blight articles on the popular online encyclopedia, Citizendium founder Larry Sanger wanted to create a place for the world to share its knowledge in a more controlled atmosphere. He saw it as somewhere that expertise would be given its due and where the discussion could rise above the rabble (see today’s news for Wikipedia’s own latest attempt to control the crowd).
It only added to the intrigue that Sanger and Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s Svengali, had fallen out badly – indeed, were in dispute over how much credit each should get for the creation of Wikipedia in the first place (see Sanger’s Wikipedia page for more).
Now, Sanger tells me, he wants to move on from Citizendium, and is looking for a suitable institution to take over management of his pet project – though he promises he will not leave it in the lurch (see the comment added below).