News and notes
Wikivoyage turns ten, but where to now?; Wikipedia Zero expands into India
A Wikivoyage-themed cake … the site's community members are celebrating their 10th anniversary this week
Contributors to Wikivoyage, the sister project adopted by the Wikimedia Foundation last year, are celebrating their 10th anniversary this week.
The milestone comes as another entry in Wikivoyage's convoluted history. Wikitravel, as it was then known, was created by Evan Prodromou and Michele Ann Jenkins on 24 July 2003. When they sold the site to Internet Brands in 2006, the German-language contributors decided to fork, creating the original Wikivoyage. Both sites continued unabated until 2012, when frustrated Wikitravel editors decided to fork the site again by rejoining Wikivoyage and moving under the WMF's umbrella.
These maneuvers set the stage for a dramatic climax when Internet Brands sued two prominent volunteers who were in favor of the move. When those matters were settled and the initial technical infrastructure was set in place, Wikivoyage was formally relaunched on 15 January 2013, with its sites covering nine languages.
The Wikitravel and Wikivoyage communities, then, are both celebrating the 10th anniversary of their foundings. Wikitravel currently has several main-page banners promoting the milestone, while Wikivoyage's reaction was more muted. A "garish" red banner was put up for about 10 minutes, but most contributors on the site's Travellers' pub were content to silently celebrate with additional content work. Others contended that it is not worth angering Wikitravel again. The site is planning a large public party for January 2014, when Wikivoyage will have been in its current WMF guise for one calendar year.
In my opinion, we need to put on the back burner things like adding images to articles and cajoling Wikipedia to continue adding interwiki links to us, and go full throttle in solving our Google problem ... All other concerns regarding boosting readership are, frankly, secondary. Failing a solution to our Google problem, we are going to end up the dead site, not Wikitravel.
The anniversary appears to have sparked animated discussion on the English Wikivoyage as to the site's future. Wikitravel, despite its much reduced editorbase after the fork, is still ranked by Alexa as the 3,162nd most popular website in the world, which can be contrasted with Wikivoyage at 32,586th. Wikitravel's popularity can be attributed to its Google popularity, where over 36% of its traffic is referred from. Only 21% of Wikivoyage traffic, on the other hand, is from Google sites.
There appears to be considerable concern about the technical dimensions that might play into the popularity or otherwise of the site. JamesA has commented:
||I contacted the WMF back in May urging them to provide Google Webmaster Tools as a priority, and was told it is usually handled by WMF staff, but that they would look into it and would also prod their Google contacts about the duplication issue. I've heard nothing since. ... the community really needs to take this issue much more seriously, as does the WMF, or things will just go more and more downhill. ... I doubt the purpose of the contributions we make to Wikivoyage when the dump that is [Wikitravel] continues to grow. I implore people to take an interest in this urgent issue.
The popularity of Wikivoyage varies considerably depending on the country. The commercial Wikitravel is far more popular than Wikivoyage in the US and the UK, showing that there is much room to grow in the English-language Wikivoyage. Unsurprisingly (given its lengthy history as a German-language site), Wikivoyage receives the greatest number of page views from Germany, 15.5%. Its Alexa rating in Germany is more than 4000 places below that of the commercial Wikitravel.
While there is cause for hope in the page views, which have risen on average after the expected large launch in January, Wikivoyage regulars recognize that their Google referrals will have to rise if they are to surpass their rival.
In other Wikivoyage news, the site is still going through the process of choosing a new logo. As we reported last month, the current logo was subject to a cease-and-desist letter from the World Trade Organization, forcing the WMF to call for a new design. Submissions have closed, and voting will begin on 26 July. Readers can view the gallery of entries, from the weird to the gender-exclusive to the promising. The entries are also displayed in a table on the talk page, with author information. The voting system will comprise two rounds: one to select the concept, and one to select the actual logo.
One of two sailboat entries in the Wikivoyage logo competition
Sixth mobile provider partners with Wikipedia Zero
The Wikimedia Foundation has announced via press release that it has partnered with Aircel to provide free mobile access to Wikipedia.
The move makes Aircel, an Indian mobile network operator with over 60 million subscribers and a market share of 7.33%, the sixth company to join with the Foundation in its Wikipedia Zero program, which aims to provide mobile users in developing countries with free access to Wikipedia articles. The number of individuals using the service will now be increased to an estimated 470 million users, according to Kul Takanao Wadhwa (WMF Head of Mobile), though previous estimates have ranged from as low as 330 to 410 to 483 million, and the current estimate elsewhere is 517 million.
Providers can choose to allow free access to the regular mobile sites and/or zero.wikipedia.org, a text-only version of the regular mobile site to save on bandwidth costs. Aircel has chosen to do both, in English and all nineteen Indic-language Wikipedias.
Wikipedia Zero forms a large part of the Foundation's initiative to expand into the developing world. As Jimmy Wales stated on 22 July, "It is our mission to provide free access to everyone in the world. [Wikipedia Zero] is one of the most exciting things we are doing and we're only just getting started." Traditional personal computers can be scarce in these regions, and those that are present are extremely valuable. As Pgallert explained in the Wikimedia Blog earlier this month, on an unrelated topic:
||The computer lab of Epukiro Post 3 Junior Secondary School in the Omaheke Region of Namibia is idle most of the time. School management is afraid that equipment might be stolen or the infrastructure be damaged, and the Ministry of Education ... did not offer any training on how to operate the computers, or what to use them for. As a result, there are typing classes a few times a week, and nothing else. During school breaks the lab is not used at all. / The computers occupy one entire classroom; their power consumption is a liability for the school. ... Yet Epukiro Post 3 JSS houses the only computer lab in the entire rural settlement cluster of Epukiro, an area accommodating several thousand people and covering thousands of square kilometers.
As mobile devices begin to outnumber traditional computers in the next few years, the Foundation expects that many of the next 500 million people to access Wikimedia projects will use mobile devices. The first iteration of this is the Wikipedia Zero initiative, which "make[s] free knowledge more accessible" through "help[ing] them discover it and ... reduc[ing] barriers to accessing it." Planned additions include enabling individuals without data-enabled phones, through receiving parts of Wikipedia articles through SMS or USSD.
Still, as Siska Doviana—the chair of Wikimedia Indonesia, which is located in one of the largest developing nation-states in the world today—pointed out to the Signpost via email, English-speaking people in these developing countries are typically in the upper class, which is not necessarily a demographic targeted by Wikipedia Zero. While this latest partnership also opens access to the nineteen Indic-language Wikipedias, nearly all have large gaps in their editorial coverage and few active editors. The Hindi Wikipedia has over 100,000 articles, but only 196 editing editors; by the same metric, the second-largest, Nepal Bhasa, has 70,000 but just ten active contributors. This would naturally lead one to wonder if the question should be about expanding content contributors rather than increasing access, but that was answered today by the Wikimedia Foundation's engineering team when they fully enabled editing from mobile.wikipedia.org.
More information on the Wikipedia Zero initiative can be found on the Wikimedia Foundation's official website, under "Wikipedia Zero" and "mobile partnerships".
- Mobile editing now enabled for all: As hinted at earlier in this article, editing from mobile.wikipedia.org—the site optimized for mobile devices—was enabled for all users on 24 July. The development holds significant potential to bring in new contributors, particularly in Africa, Southern Asia, and in large languages that currently have few active users.
- VisualEditor review: The quarterly review with the VisualEditor and Parsoid teams has been published on Meta. These reviews are aimed to ensure accountability and allow senior Foundation staff to offer specific guidance to their proliferous and diverse initiatives.
- John Riedl: John Riedl, a computer scientist and Wikipedia researcher, passed away on 15 July after a lengthy battle with cancer.
- First World War centenary: First World War-related "Did you know...?" hooks for the centenary of the start of the war (28 July 2014) may be submitted beginning on 28 July of this year.
- Wiki Loves Monuments ... in Antarctica: An Antarctica-focused Wiki Loves Monuments is being planned on the Wikimedia Commons.
- Writing women back into history: A blog post at the Brooklyn Museum highlights Alexandra Thom's goal of chronicling all 1,038 women in Judy Chicago's Dinner Party on Wikipedia.