Google hosting

Wikimedia Board considers proposal for Google to help host content

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This article is not an official statement of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A potential solution for Wikipedia's overloaded servers appeared last week, as news broke that the Wikimedia Foundation was in talks with Google about providing hosting services. Preliminary indications were promising, but no final agreement has been reached and is probably still several weeks away at the earliest.

The initial hints appeared 1 February, as an agenda item for the 7 February Wikimedia Board of Trustees meeting referred to "Hosting by Google". After the board meeting was held last Monday, the summary of the agenda reflected more clearly that this was not simply a theoretical discussion, but indicated that an actual contract proposal was being worked on and a private meeting was scheduled on the issue for 2 March. However, the information did not yet indicate whether there was any discussion on Google's part, or whether the Wikimedia Foundation was simply hoping to interest Google in the idea.

Participants in the meeting alluded to the proposal in discussions on the Foundation mailing list during the week, prompting additional questions about the plan. Wikimedia CFO Daniel Mayer said Wednesday, "The plan for Google hosting will greatly reduce the amount of money we need to spend as will other hosting offers." (Mayer later said he was not speaking in an official capacity.) In response to the queries that followed, Trustee Angela Beesley confirmed that Google had made a proposal to host Wikimedia content, but said she couldn't elaborate.

The Wikipedia community's other elected Trustee, Anthere, reported on Thursday that Jimmy Wales had met with Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page during a trip to Stanford, where he was a guest lecturer last Wednesday in a class taught by Howard Rheingold. She indicated that Brin and Page were enthusiastic about the Wikipedia project.

The story breaks

The first appearance of this information outside of Wikipedia discussions seems to have been posted on a blog Archived 2005-02-13 at the Wayback Machine Thursday at, one of a number of blogs dedicated to Google-related issues. The Dirson blog provided no real information beyond what had been stated on the mailing list — in fact, an update to the blog copied information verbatim from mailing list posts, complete with misspellings like Zeon in reference to the Xeon servers Google might use as a hosting provider. (Zeon is apparently, among other things, a planet in the Star Trek universe; perhaps next we might see rumors that the Federation will be providing additional bandwidth in exchange for Wikimedia abandoning its plans to relocate the Klingon Wikipedia to Wikicities.)

Dirson's post, combined with the existence of a Meta article about Google hosting, meant that the information was now published both internally and externally. This was apparently good enough for other people to start repeating the story, with the Meta page serving as "official" confirmation. The story was picked up by Slashdot the same day, prompting an extended discussion on that site.

Response to publicity

As a reflection of the combined name recognition of Google and Wikipedia, or the large audience Slashdot enjoys, the news proliferated rapidly to many different internet sites on Friday. The "Google hosting" page on Meta had to be protected due to vandalism after the news hit Slashdot, a common problem for Wikipedia articles that get linked there. Meanwhile, Brion Vibber reported that many of the people he spoke with while manning a Wikipedia booth at the Southern California Linux Expo wanted to know about the Google deal.

The coverage brought out a limited response from Google, confirming the basic fact that talks were underway but not elaborating on the nature of the discussions. As reported by Susan B. Shor of TechNewsWorld, Google spokesman Nate Tyler stated, "While we don't have anything specific to announce today, Google and the Wikimedia Foundation are collaboratively evaluating creative ways to support and its community."

Details of the proposal remain confidential, although Mayer did say that as he understood the plan, there would be "no strings attached". The Foundation did not offer an official statement, and the fact that outside sources treated information on Meta as official prompted the addition of a disclaimer to the page. According to Beesley, any official statements would be placed on the Wikimedia Foundation website.

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