Googlepedia column

Media speculation and debate about Google and Wikipedia continues

Media discussion of the possible deal between Wikipedia and Google (see archived story) continued last week, with both skeptics and supporters weighing in on the implications of the relationship.

John C. Dvorak wrote an opinion column Monday for PC Magazine called "Googlepedia: The End is Near". Since it was an editorial rather than a news report, Dvorak didn't present any news that hadn't already come out, but simply presented an analysis based on existing reports. He speculated that Google might be "trying to corner the all the world's information" in order to sell it, or that they might take advantage of controlling access in order to lock out web crawlers from competing search engines like Microsoft.

Dvorak also drew a comparison to Google's acquisition of the Deja News Usenet archive, criticizing Google for contributing to the decline of Usenet and concluding, "This sort of collapse and sudden loss of interest does not bode well for Wikipedia ending up in bed with Google, or anyone else for that matter." He argued that even if the "nice guys" at Google didn't want to ruin Wikipedia, the fact of being a public corporation made it more or less inevitable.

Reactions to Dvorak

As with the original reports connecting Google with Wikipedia, Dvorak's column prompted a lengthy Slashdot discussion of the subject. Posters frequently argued that Dvorak was simply trying to write a provocative article, and some pointed out his failure to mention legal impediments to the idea that Google could "acquire" Wikipedia or its content.

Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield responded in his blog by calling the piece "a conspiracy column that makes no sense". He concluded that the need for any outside supporters to work with the Wikipedia community and its culture would encourage Google to act responsibly.

Mayfield also related that last year, as concerns were mounting that Wikipedia's Tampa-based servers would be vulnerable during the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, Jimmy Wales contacted him to find out if Socialtext could help provide hosting in case of an emergency. Mayfield said he would have been glad to, "but it was a bigger operation than us at the time."

Once these exchanges had passed, discussion of a Wikipedia-Google alliance died down, as no new information came out that could fuel additional speculation. It seems that further debate may have to wait until any official announcements are made.

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