On Sun, Feb 28, 2016 at 3:24 PM, Dariusz Jemielniak <dar...@alk.edu.pl>

We COULD outsource most of our tech (I'm not supporting this, I'm just
> giving perspective).

One thing I've been wondering about of late is how much donor-funded the
work the WMF is doing that is primarily designed to support commercial

The other day, I read an Engineering report on the Wikimedia blog that
spoke of the Wikipedia Zero team doing "side project" work for Amazon
Kindle and Google Play.

I was thinking, Why are donors paying for that? – especially at a time when
the Foundation worries about being able to sustain fundraising growth.

Wikimedia content is worth billions. Wikidata in particular has huge
potential value for commercial re-users.[1] So have the link-ups between
Wikipedia and Amazon, Google, Bing etc.

It's clear that even in 2008, the Foundation was inundated with "multiple
product-specific pitches" from Google.[2] I imagine the breadth and number
of these pitches from Silicon Valley companies can only have increased
since then.

Sure, Wikimedia is committed to using its donated funds to make content
freely available under an open licence, but does that mean donors should
also be paying for programming work that is primarily designed to support
commercial re-users?

That work could be done by self-financing cottage industries built up by
Wikimedians, working for profit, or even a for-profit arm of the
Foundation. All the Foundation would have to do would be to provide basic
documentation; the rest could be left to the open market.

The astonishing thing to me is that there seems to be very little or no
publicity and transparency from the WMF about developments in this area.
For instance, I was unable to find any WMF communication about Wikipedia
Smart Lookup being integrated in the Amazon Kindle (something Amazon
announced in 2014),[3] even though WMF teams clearly have done programming
work on this. You'd have thought having Wikipedia search embedded in a
major product like the Kindle is a big thing, worthy of a community-facing

In short, I think the WMF should collate and publicise more information
about commercial re-use applications, and be transparent about the work
it's doing to support such re-use. Maybe there is another "transparency
gap" here.[4]

And if there is any work that the Foundation is currently doing that
primarily benefits commercial re-users, then I think it should stop doing
that for free (= at donors' expense), and allow for-profit contractors to
spring up and pitch for that work. That would allow the non-profit
foundation to focus on user-facing improvements.


[2] See Sue Gardner's email quoted on the last two pages of
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