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Wikimedia Product/Perspectives/Scale

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By 2030, up to 90% of the world’s population will be using the internet.[1] They will bring new languages, new customs, and ways of communicating—and the technologies we have today will have to evolve to account for their needs. The internet will change and the patterns and interactions of today will become less relevant. Some will grow, transform and reinvent themselves. Others will fade into obscurity.

It is difficult to envision a future where Wikimedia projects, in their current form, continue to be essential to the needs of new internet users exposed mainly to social media, short-form text, and multimedia across a variety of platforms.[2][3][4][5]  It is equally difficult to envision Wikipedia restructured as a social network or atomized into a database providing knowledge throughout every corner of the internet while retaining its active readers, communities, and donors.[6][7]

For years we have established a baseline for quality content for the world’s internet population. Yet as the identity of this population changes and our content gap widens, we are found increasingly wanting. If our goal is to increase readership in new markets, or even to provide the content readers are interested in within existing markets, we must focus on not only the size, but also the relevancy of our content. An increase in locally-relevant content can not only bring in new readers, but provide for them an opportunity for representation that has so far been sparse not only within Wikimedia projects, but within all media. In addition, allowing communities to create different types of content can make accessibility for a variety of different audiences much easier.

Yet growing relevant content works under the assumption that the supply of content is equal to the demand from readers and, unfortunately, this does not apply to our current structure. Along with our readers, we must grow our communities by focusing on decreasing the barriers between readers and editors,[8] and ensuring new editors have the support they need to begin providing quality content to projects they are interested in.[9]

Additional focus must be placed on the content itself. While we are not capable of predicting the needs of all of our future users, we can ensure that our content is adaptable to any technical trends that may occur and support our communities by providing them with the tools necessary to create, curate, and moderate such content. We can focus on building relationships between projects and communities so that people looking to find, or contribute to, different types of information can do so with ease.[10]

One change that may seem inevitable is syndication across other platforms - providing the ability for partners to use our content and for others to access it. We must note that such a future, if implemented without proactive management, can put the sustainability of our communities at risk. Without a steady rate of visits to the site, less readers become editors and, over time, the quality of our content will suffer. To account for this imbalance, we can explore the relationship between content creation and syndication and focus on building tools that will allow content creation to continue in an increasingly dispersed network. We can expand our presence on other platforms while continuing to navigate users back to our projects.

Success in the above spheres will provide equitable growth to our projects and communities and ensure ubiquity of our content throughout the fabric of daily technology. Yet it does not address our vulnerability to external threats or offer us protection. Defense to such threats must also be treated as a priority. We can explore options such as making censorship and security threats more expensive for those who wish us harm, exploring different ways for accessing our content, and supporting other organizations that stand against censorship.

If we hope to become the “essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge” and to allow “anyone who shares our vision [to] be able to join us”, we must focus on providing knowledge-seekers with content relevant to their needs and interests, sustainably growing healthy and diverse communities, and ensuring our continued presence throughout the fabric of the internet. We must also focus on protecting ourselves and ensuring we are resilient to internal and external threats.



  • Structured Data
  • Global tools
  • External contribution models
  • Identifying content gaps
  • Platform-agnostic content

Areas of Impact[edit]

  • All wiki projects
  • Community Relations
  • Community developers
  • Partnerships
  • Infrastructure
  • Research

White Paper[edit]



  1. https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:The_World_in_2030_-_Presentation_for_movement_strategy_discussions.pdf&page=30
  2. https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3173574.3173929 Studies the rise and decline of Wikia wikis and identifies a similar pattern for these wikis, as observed in the original Rise And Decline paper by Halfaker, et. al. indicating that a wiki may have a roughly predetermined life cycle.
  3. New readers research - which highlights beginner reader needs and expectations in emerging markets. https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/New_Readers/Findings
  4. NY Times editorial summarizing the predominance of multi-media content https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/09/technology/the-rise-of-a-visual-internet.html
  5. https://econsultancy.com/why-we-need-to-stop-repeating-the-50-by-2020-voice-search-prediction/ Less hype-prone look at the rise of voice search, as an example of the way users interactions with internet content are changing
  6. The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies - shows that Google’s clickthrough rates drop significantly when not surfacing Wikipedia content, but that Wikipedia’s pageviews drop when Google displays such content
  7. Examining Wikipedia with a broader lens: Quantifying the value of Wikipedia's relationships with other large-scale online communities   Looks at Wikipedia’s relationship with Stack Overflow and Reddit: “Wikipedia provides substantial value to both communities, with Wikipedia content increasing visitation, engagement, and revenue, but we find little evidence that these websites contribute to Wikipedia in return. “
  8. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/689816 Is a study that explored Coleman’s social norms in the context of Wikipedia: “dense networks provide an opportunity structure to reward those who punish norm violators, leading to more frequent punishment and in turn fewer norm violations.”
  9. The New Editor Experiences research provides insights on these barriers and suggests ways to reduce them
  10. Displays that knowledge is more effective when actively sought https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcc4.12185