(The Hosting News) – On January 15, 2011 online open source encyclopedia Wikipedia will celebrate its tenth anniversary. Though the fifth most visited website in the world has remained staunchly opposed to any commercialization, it will for the first time celebrate its anniversary as a large market place, with many corporations establishing or expanding visibility on Wikipedia via the first network of Wikipedia writers-for-hire, WikiExperts.us.
As many people now refer to Wikipedia for the information on corporation, as well as products and services, rather than going to corporate website overloaded with promotional materials and other “corporate propaganda”, having good visibility on Wikipedia is considered a must-have by most corporations. Yet Wikipedia always discouraged corporations from editing their own listings and pledged to ban any Wikipedia editor who would offer services for hire. In December of 2010, WikiExperts.us openly challenged this policy and offered its services to all entities which meet Wikipedia “Notability” criteria. By January, WikiExperts have received many requests from corporations located in the United States and Europe.
The commercialization of Wikipedia also fueled the controversy over the overall strategy of this informational giant.
At the end of 2010, large images of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales dominated each and every page on Wikipedia, accompanied by a request for donations. Seen by 400 million unique visitors monthly, Mr. Wales was arguably the single most visible individual on the planet, surpassing even top celebrities, politicians and religious leaders. While unquestionably effective for promoting Mr. Wales, is this strategy best for Wikipedia? Alex Konanykhin, the founder of WikiExperts.us, believes that advertising revenues could provide incomparably better financing of Wikipedia, without affecting its neutrality.
“Would we have a more easily-searchable Internet if, instead of relying on $23 billion of annual revenues, Google adorned every search page with its founders’ pictures and their personal appeal to donate?” asks Konanykhin. “The banner with Mr. Wales’ image was viewed roughly 3,000 times every second and was ridiculed Internet-wide. Wouldn’t it make more sense to show tasteful ads of advertisers like Rolex and Audi? Did Wikipedia users donate $16,000,000 to finance Wikipedia…or a personal ego trip?”
Konanykhin explains that donations-only, no-commerce model restricts Wikipedia to relying exclusively on free volunteers, and losing opportunities to involve qualified professionals who charge for their time. “Qualified contributors may and shall be compensated for their time. History has repeatedly proven that free labor is not the best business model in the long run and on a large scale.” points out Alex Konanykhin, who grew up in the Soviet Union until immigrating to the USA in 1992 at the age of 25 and founding KMGi, a widely acclaimed online visibility company and a parent company of WikiExperts.us.
“In its almost 10 year history, the anonymous, volunteer-only community of Wikipedia has evolved to support an adversarial relationship with subject-matter experts, organizations and companies. This severely limits the growth potential of Wikipedia, no matter how much money is raised.” says David Barberi, COO of WikiExperts.
For example, Carl Hewitt, a professor emeritus from MIT, is just one of the many subject-matter experts that have been banned from Wikipedia. Hewitt wrote a paper on his experience, with the following summary: “Wikipedia’s business model is generating Web traffic for articles of conventional wisdom and morality that are heavily censored by a commune of mostly anonymous Administrators to motivate financial contributions.”
Anonymity in submission regularly results in libel and disinformation. One such case was the Wikipedia Biography of John Seigenthaler Sr., the former administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s. Seigenthaler was falsely accused of involvement in the Kennedy assassinations by anonymous editors. The accusations stayed online for 132 days, and was spread to ‘Wikipedia mirror’ sites throughout the Internet.