It doesn’t need to be said out loud that Wikipedia is the go-to source of information on possibly the largest catalog of topics on the internet. And sometimes, it definitely boggles my mind thinking that a database as useful as Wikipedia is free to access, while users are forced to pay for far worse and less meaningful digital services which can be anything from paying to read someone’s messages on a shady dating app and buying a game character cosmetic to avoiding ads on a music listening services.
But regular folks aside, one of the biggest beneficiaries happen to be tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple, which serve reliable and useful information to their audience (read: customers) via Wikipedia without shelling out a dime for it. That changes now!
Wikimedia – the non-profit behind Wikipedia and other affiliated Wiki services – now wants tech giants to pay up. But it has less to do with asking these billion dollar – trillion dollar in a few cases – companies to pay for using Wikipedia to serve their services, and more to do with solving their own problems. That solution is Wikimedia Enterprise.
“The focus is on organizations that want to repurpose Wikimedia content in other contexts, providing data services at a large scale, so that they are faster and more comprehensive, reliable, and secure,” says the official description. Wikimedia is targeting companies that reuse its library of content in large volumes, and the goal is to offer them benefits in three key areas:
1. The frequency with which they receive regular bulk data dump, ensuring that any vandalism can be fixed at a quicker pace.
2. Increasing the reliability aspect via a dependable infrastructure that allows them to reuse the information and serve their user base round the clock.
3. Availability of technical support.
In simple words, Wikimedia Enterprise will offer big tech an assurance of speed, reliability, and consistency with which they can extract and restructure Wikimedia’s content to their needs. The Wikimedia Enterprise API will allow high-volume, high-speed access and reuse of Wikimedia content that these very wealthy clients can exploit to maintain the entries for projects related to their company, which can be anything from company profile page on Wikipedia to related media.
After all, why should Wikimedia dedicate efforts and resources to address the technical requirements of these billion-dollar companies, when they don’t pay a nickel for it?
The objective is also to make more of the content machine-readable and reduce the server load. Specifically, the Wikimedia Enterprise project wants to ‘reduce the need for high-intensity site-scraping by the highest-frequency and highest-volume reusers, which currently target our production servers.’ In simple terms, the stress on Wikimedia servers due to content that is reused by these popular deep-pocket brands has to be cut down by offloading it to dedicated servers, the cost of which will be paid for by these clients.
“It is well known that a few massive companies use our projects’ data. Those companies recognize that without the Wikimedia projects, they would not be able to provide as rich or reliable an experience to their own users.”
– Wikimedia Enterprise
Wikimedia is reliant on funds and donations to serve its goal of providing free access to arguably the largest trove of information on the planetGoogle and Apple to serve their user based require more effort and resources to ensure that it is error-free, accessible, and incidents such as vandalism can be countered quickly.
The company is targeting a May/June 2021 release of its Wikimedia Enterprise APIs across two tiers – Realtime and Bulk – with their own set of subcategories, each with specific benefits. To achieve the technical goal of catering to those rich clients, the Wikimedia Enterprise APIs will be hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), but the company is not bound to use AWS and is actually exploring alternatives when the initiative scales up.
However, Wikimedia doesn’t expect to rake in a fortune by asking big tech to pay. In fact, the non-profit still expects to receive a large chunk of financial support from its readers and donors. In the hindsight, it also ensures that these tech giants cannot exert any form of pressure on how Wikimedia operates, and more importantly, how its content is served. ‘Revenue from Wikimedia Enterprise will supplement our reader support, but it will not eclipse it’, says the FAQ section.