Wikipedia is funded largely by donations from its users and has been free to everyone since its launch in 2001. But WikiMedia Foundation, which administers the online encyclopedia, announced via an article in Wired that it is launching a paid API service for large-scale for-profit users.
Big tech companies like Google, Apple and Amazon have been using Wikipedia extensively as a source of information. Responses to queries on Google Search and questions to Amazon’s Alexa are often sourced from Wikipedia, and are available for free to these companies just like they are to any other user on the internet. Wikimedia is trying to change this with Wikimedia Enterprise, which will launch later in 2021.
Wikimedia Enterprise provides APIs for large scale content reuse, to pull content from Wikipedia more conveniently, efficiently, and securely. Previously, big companies had dedicated teams to clean and organize Wikipedia content. With Enterprise, not only is this service provided to them, but the data will be tailored to each company’s requirement and delivered quicker than before, the company told Wired.
Wikimedia Enterprise will use Amazon Web Services to store data and provide services, unlike its free version which hosts content on its own servers. This is to provide better service to customers, Wikimedia said.
Although the new revenue source will be substantial, it will not be a significant contributor to the foundation’s $100 million budget, Wikimedia claimed. Responding to concerns that this could make Wikimedia over-reliant on corporate partners and shift the foundation from its core mission of providing free information, the foundation countered that Wikimedia Enterprise would provide the foundation with funds to provide better services in emerging markets in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia.
By 2030, one of the things that we want is to achieve something called knowledge equity, which really means we want to grow in emerging markets really significantly over the next ten years. That requires additional resources, increased investment, and we are hopeful that Enterprise can help get us the resources to grow around the world. — Seitz-Gruwell, the chief advancement officer at the Wikimedia Foundation
While the free version of Wikipedia is still available to everyone, including commercial users, conversations between Wikimedia and big tech companies to attract them to the new service are reportedly already underway.
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