The End is Near
is a debate within the online community regarding the
fate of the amazing Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia
that has grown into one of the largest free resources
for information in the world. The comment appeared on
what is called the Meta-Wiki, found
"Google Inc. has made a proposal to host some
of the content of the Wikimedia projects. The terms
of the offer are currently being discussed by the board.
The developer committee has been informed of some of
the details via e-mail. A private IRC meeting with Google
is planned for March 2005. Please note that this agreement
does not mean there is any requirement for us to include
advertising on the site. See Wikimedia partners and
hosts for details of other current and proposed hosting
those unfamiliar with
it's essentially a massive user-contributed information
resource based on the concept of a "wiki,"
which is yet another cutesy name for an online public
collaborative forum. Large knowledge bases can be developed
quickly by utilizing these forums. The current model
for this was invented by Ward Cunningham, who was recently
hired away from his consultancy to work for Microsoft.
He's now in the vague "Prescriptive Architecture
believe that his role will be to improve the rather
mediocre natural-language capabilities currently used
in the Microsoft (MSN) search engine. Right now Microsoft
essentially looks up things in the dictionary when you
ask, for example, "What is metal?" With more
complex queries, it may go to its own Encarta encyclopedia
and throw an answer back at you. It's hit and miss.
has been using Wikipedia to deliver appropriate results
in a non-natural-language fashion, but would love to
get hold of the entire database in-house so it would
not have to continually spider the thing with its legions
of Web crawlers. So the debate now begins. Should the
Wikipedia folks get cozy with Google, a public company?
The big fear seems to be the notion of letting the camel's
head into the tent. Pretty soon the whole camel will
has ensued, though, is a typical online debate, which
you can visit here on the
Wikimedia meta site.
The results are as expected. There is every opinion
from "what a great idea" to "the evil
technocrats at Google will take over, kill us all, and
eat our flesh."
when you consistently look to be too generous, people
get suspicious. You have to remember that this offer
comes on the heels of the offer made to libraries by
Google to digitize and host all the great books and
documents in the world. Now this. Is Google trying to
corner the all the world's information and then, once
they have it all under their control, sell it back to
us at a high fee?
more interestingly, is it possible that the plan is
to control all these resources and then stick it to
Microsoft when its search-engine Web crawler comes around?
ACCESS DENIED! There is no doubt in my mind that this
is a distinct possibility. But can it be accomplished
without making a mess?
still has to explain to the community what happened
to Usenet. People still recall how DejaNews, one of
the great resources of the Net, began as a large database
of every Usenet post ever made in a massive archive.
As the burden of maintaining this database increased,
DejaNews changed its direction into a mediocre shopping
engine and post database, and then Google took it over.
At first the ability to search Usenet was on the Google
home page. Then it disappeared, and now it's on a subpage
that you have to dig for, and the search totally stinks.
has fallen out of favor and been largely marginalized
over the past several years, as spammers helped ruin
it. Google did little to halt the erosion, and what
was once the powerful DejaNews is now the mostly useless
been kept in perpetual beta since being taken off the
home page. This sort of collapse and sudden loss of
interest does not bode well for Wikipedia ending up
in bed with Google, or anyone else for that matter.
let's say that Google is as honorable as it claims and
has no intention of doing anything more than making
life better for everyone. I know most of the principals
there, and they are as normal and sincere as can be
expected. Nice guys, actually. But Google itself is
a public corporation. It's its own animal in that regard,
with attorneys and bean-counters making the "nice
guys" who run the place beholden to the mythical
shareholders, who demand results and accountability.
Maybe the nice guys do not want to create a situation
that locks out the Microsoft crawlers. The needs of
the corporate entity, though, demand it. Maybe the nice
guys don't want to take over Wikipedia and clean it
up, change the way it worksóruin itóas per the lawyers'
demands. The corporation demands it. Those nice guys
are not working for themselves any more. We always have
to remember that. They are now guests.