Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
February 14th, 2005


A shot in the arm for Wikipedia

Various news agencies are now reporting that Google is considering the possiblity of hosting Wikipedia and its sister projects. This is big news!

Currently, the Wikimedia family of websites is hosted by an armada of Linux servers (39 of them currently, with two being purchased), located in Florida and France. The names of these servers themselves are part of the overall creativity that surrounds the Wikipedian community: each server is named after a famous philosopher or author of reference works. All the Greats are represented: Bacon, Webster, Benet, Hypatia, and Coronelli, among others.

But although these servers work their proverbial tails off every nanosecond of the day, Wikipedia always ends up sluggish, taking eons to respond, occasionally forcing the developers to pull the plug on the in-house search feature. Just monitor the offsite Wikipedia Status page for a few days; you’ll see what I mean.

Talks haven’t even begun yet. But Wikipedia is known for helping out with good causes: they host Firefox’s default homepage, Firefox Start, and they’re working to extend the access of knowledge to everyone, just like Wikipedia is.

I’m optimistic about it all. Google wouldn’t dare pull a stunt on all of us by charging for content once it’s in their grasp. First of all, all the content is released under the GFDL or similar licenses, so no one can totally and completely own it, as I stated before. Second of all, hoardes of ordinary people own stock in Google – don’t forget that. So if Google does something like extortion, people will likely start talking with not only their feet, but their wallets as well.

I’ve been bitten before by Adobe, but even with that experience, I’m certain that Google cannot exert that much negative influence over the project. From the project’s inception, various safeguards were implemented to prevent commercial interests from ever interfering with the project’s stated purpose (to provide free access to everyone). The Wikimedia Foundation is an international non-profit organization, after all.

So to all those naysayers, and to the media correspondents who blow the ensuing discussion way out of proportion (yet can’t even spell Wikipedia or Wikimedia correctly), wait and see.

[Update] Michael Snow tells this story better at the .