« The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. » And will.

In the past years we have seen that every online community that starts as free and open, sooner or later becomes an advertising platform.
Take YouTube. First it was a place to publish the video of your funny cat for the world to see. Now, beside being a collection of everyone’s funny cats, YouTube is an advertising channel for business, celebrities, broadcasting channels and political institutions. That’s fine. I can ignore them, if I want to, or use them to enrich my experience.
Take Facebook. Invented to connect college buddies it recently moved to the next phase, in which a company has the same kind of page as you and your buddies, functioning just as « another friend », starting groups and promoting events. That sort of puts me off a little, but I can ignore them, too. I don’t have to befriend everybody.
Now take Wikipedia. The (French) article Pharmaceutical industry manipulates Wikipedia reveals the pharma industry’s marketing strategy for Wikipedia and shows how a subtle text manipulation can establish good reputation for a drug, discredit its competitors and conceal negative side effects.
Now, the problem with Wikipedia is that wherever you go on the site you, like Forrest Gump, « never know whatcha gonna get. » We all know that Wikipedia is written by everybody and we all know that the information might be incomplete and biased. But we still hope that somehow it will be okay.
Well, it’s not.
The rule that any open community is eventually used by somebody to make money is a reality. But Wikipedia is one of those communities which might not survive this shift because it discredits the whole idea.
Related reading: Eric Goldman « Doomed: why Wikipedia will fail »


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