Google offers home to Wikipedia
February 11, 2005 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Google wants to host Wikimedia projects. Some call it corporate imperialism; some call it humanitarianism demonstrating Google's hope for society. In any event, folks are talking.
posted by NickDouglas (27 comments total)
This may just be my knee jerking, but I question the wisdom of allowing Google to host Wikimedia projects.

I love Google and believe that, at this time, they are not doing evil. However, this is a publicly held company and there is no guarantee that their corporate ethos will be the same a year or five from now.

I know this isn't exactly an original thought but isn't it the distributed nature of the 'net that allows it to route around damage? If this is the case I don't see how further consolidating information in the hands of any single entity can be a good thing.
posted by cedar at 6:00 AM on February 11, 2005

It seems strange that Google would make this offer out of the blue in a bid for this supposed "corporate imperialism".

It could be a project that they actually use and endorse or there is a possibility that someone in the Wiki foundation has been actively shopping around for alternate hosting solutions.

Who knows? I guess we will find out more in March.
posted by purephase at 6:02 AM on February 11, 2005

Google has apparently started sending requests for definitions to (which is quite cool, BTW), which includes Wikipedia among the sources it checks. So I'd guess that Google offering to host Wikipedia is a combination of self-interest to ensure that the Answers.comn thing works well and being a good netizen.

Which is fine. We're not talking about ownership, after all, just hosting.
posted by pmurray63 at 6:23 AM on February 11, 2005

Too bad there's nothing to actually talk about yet.

Except maybe how crummy Wikipedia's current hosting is. The sites that mirror it to get ad impressions (like are invariably faster at returning actual results.
posted by smackfu at 6:35 AM on February 11, 2005

The short note seems to suggest that there is no "requirement to serve ads" (a slightly ambiguous form of words).

If this is the case and no ads are served it would seem to be an altruistic gesture. Though it looks to me that Google's long term strategy is about acquiring real estate on which to serve ads, so this "requirement" may change.
posted by johnny novak at 6:43 AM on February 11, 2005

Unless more people donate to wikipedia they will NEVER be able to satisfy global demand with a decent speed (servers and the huge bandwith demands cost SERIOUS money).

I wouldn't even mind Google ads on wikipedia - as long as it makes it faster and more accessible.
posted by homodigitalis at 6:49 AM on February 11, 2005

I also meant to say, that (along with homodigitalis) Google ads on Wikipedia wouldn't seem like the end of the world.
posted by johnny novak at 6:54 AM on February 11, 2005

Assuming they reach some sort of agreement that allows wikipedia to remain sufficiently independant, this could turn out to be a real benefit. The extra publicity and access could go either way, though. I mean, the prospect of having more contributors is certainly enticing, but I don't know if that would push the vandalism to the point where it would be too difficult to clean up. It seems to me that the popularity of google has lowered the quality of its search results, but as wikipedia works under a different model, maybe it won't succumb to such watering-down? Unless they have an easy way to sever their relationship if need be, it makes me rather wary.
posted by nTeleKy at 6:56 AM on February 11, 2005

nTeleKy: I mean, the prospect of having more contributors is certainly enticing, but I don't know if that would push the vandalism to the point where it would be too difficult to clean up.

There seem to be some plans for a Wikipedia 1.0, a co-existing moderated version of Wikipedia, where the articles (and changes) are vetted to meet standards expected of traditional references.
posted by Gyan at 7:14 AM on February 11, 2005

Smart move. So Google will "help to" host free information resources that have a lot of content, lots of editors who work for cheap, I.e. nothing and there could be some ads -- maybe later, maybe not.

It's amazing to behold, and one wonders what the reaction would be if Microsoft did something like this.
posted by gsb at 7:17 AM on February 11, 2005

Microsoft has never done anything like this, so we can only wonder.
posted by smackfu at 7:23 AM on February 11, 2005

From a practical point of view, I thought Google did a pretty good job absorbing the open directory project and the usenet archives from deja.
posted by ph00dz at 7:27 AM on February 11, 2005

Well, at least there is a big fat money-hungry oligopolist in our corner. Is it it possible to guarantee that all of these projects won't some day fall into the hands of eveel?
posted by WebToy at 7:50 AM on February 11, 2005

It's a good thing, and worth doing, as long as, were Google to turn evil, wikimedia has the option to part ways with a minimum of trouble.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:58 AM on February 11, 2005

Google has tons of cash.

They could help set up a small trust to allow Wikimedia to become more self-sufficient.

That they are not doing this suggests that they would like some measure of control over Wiki, for good or bad.

Google behaves responsibly today. As a corporation, that can change at any time.
posted by AlexReynolds at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2005

one day google is going to bite you in the ass. hard. and you are going go 'thank you google! you're the bestest!' and then you'll invite 6 friends to get thier asses bit too.
posted by quonsar at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2005

Microsoft has never done anything like this

You don't think that MSN's new online encarta search played a role in this decision then?

I'm dubious, google gets a vast body of knowledge for some bandwidth (which they have vast quantities of), some disk space (which, considering gmail accounts come with 1GB, is cheap for google), and some search capabilities (which google isn't bad at anyway). The problem is, what happens to wikipedia if it ever gets dropped by google? Who hosts it then - unlikely to be the contributors, once they get used to the idea that google pays for everything.
posted by BigCalm at 9:00 AM on February 11, 2005

Google already has the entire Wikipedia cached. This is mostly a formalizing and recognition (albeit also enhancing) of an existing reality for Google.
posted by Axandor at 9:34 AM on February 11, 2005

There was no jerking of knees when Wikipedia was hosted by the Bomis pornbrokers. Why worry now?

Google behaves responsibly today. As a corporation, that can change at any time.

So can anyone hosting Wikipedia, and so can the Wikipedia Foundation itself. Google's offering hosting, they're not buying. If their approach changes, then the Wikimedia Foundation just makes alternative arrangements, moves the data that they still control to the new place and points the domains that they still control there.
posted by mendel at 10:10 AM on February 11, 2005

"No one finds my entries; what's up, Googie?"
"Oh, sorry, sweetie, my algorithms need a little tweaking. I'll check it out."
"Uh huh-- I saw you hold hands with that slut Britannica in the Services department!"
"You know I only love you, baby! Don't be so paranoid. Here, have some stock."
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:17 AM on February 11, 2005

mendel: "So can anyone hosting Wikipedia, and so can the Wikipedia Foundation itself."

The difference is that Google is a publicly held for-profit corporation. It can be argued that Google has a fiduciary responsibility to do evil if being good turns out to be less than profitable. Like any other corporation, Google's only real obligation is to make a buck for their stockholders.
posted by cedar at 11:28 AM on February 11, 2005

Hey...they're saying HOST, not buy out. If the only involvment they have is armslength running Wikipedia on their servers then I say they should go for it.

I think it's a great idea, if that's what they're actually proposing. And kudos to Google if it is.
posted by RockCorpse at 2:41 PM on February 11, 2005

Google brings out the real cynics.
posted by smackfu at 7:35 PM on February 11, 2005

Given that google could simply copy the entire contents of wikipedia and host that themselves, and point people to their version in web search results, I'd say they're being very nice just to offer to cover some of the foundation's costs.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:36 PM on February 11, 2005

As a daily contributor of Wikipedia, I support anything that would improve the current situation. For most of the first half of January the site was unusable from an editing standpoint, and just today I must have had as many as 100 page loads that just failed. It's very frustrating to work on an article requiring multiple previews, all the while worrying that someone might slip an edit in ahead of yours, creating a collision. I do think the Wikimedia Foundation folks are smart enough not to get in bed with the wrong company; the fact is their content is freely "stealable" by anyone due to the GFDL. Google has previously integrated projects ranging from the Open Directory to Usenet. I don't think it's going to happen in such a way that it compromises the original; I can envision some sort of AdSense financing scheme, especially on pages Google might serve up during search results.

Basically, Google has the most efficient server farm in the world right now; they pass out new server clusters like candy. Spare cycles? They've got 'em. Plus, they can probably use the 501(c)(3) deduction from corporate profits.
posted by dhartung at 10:29 PM on February 11, 2005

Google seems to be interested in knowledge - not in information which, of course, it is has hands down. Along with things such as google scholar it seems it is trying make that leap from a mass of stuff to intelligible and recognised order. Involvement in the Wiki would be a good step in that direction.

I think to be cynical of all private enterprises is understandable but takes away the possibility that google actually might give a damn, even in the future. Maybe they won't but removing the possibility before it happens seems foolish.
posted by blindsam at 8:24 AM on February 12, 2005

Both domain names registered 3/4/2004
posted by Metauser at 2:52 AM on February 16, 2005

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