In an announcement this week, Yahoo! and the Wikimedia Foundation revealed that the search company was to provide substantial technical and financial support to the Foundation, the parent body of Wikipedia, Wikinews and several other Wikimedia projects. Yahoo! will be providing free hosting for Wikipedia content at one of its Asian facilities, a move that should greatly assist the growth of the project in the region.
David Mandelbrot, Yahoo's vice president of search content, was quoted by Reuters as saying that Yahoo's backing was worth "several hundred thousand dollars". Discussing the agreement in entry on Yahoo's blog, CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation Jimmy Wales said "Yahoo's generous donation to our cause … will have a huge impact on our ability to get our message of sharing knowledge out to the world".
Wales also stressed that the donation was purely charitable, with no strings attached. "[There are] no requirements for us to show advertising, and no ownership or control of our work by Yahoo of any kind. Yahoo is simply enthusiastic about the goodness of our work".
At the same time as its support for the Wikimedia Foundation was announced, Yahoo was also starting to introduce a facility to provide abstracts of Wikipedia entries above normal search results. The return of 'shortcuts' to Wikipedia content above the rest of the search results was rolled out first on the French Yahoo (see this example), and will be extended over the next few weeks to other languages for users in Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the USA.
The reason this new feature was introduced on Yahoo's French-language site was because the idea came out of discussions between Wikimedia Trustee Florence Devouard and Yahoo staff in France. Jimmy Wales said that the integration of Wikipedia information into Yahoo search results was even more exciting than the hosting offer, saying that it represented "recognition of the value of our work in enhancing the experience of Yahoo visitors".
Previously, news had leaked that the Wikimedia Foundation was in talks with Google, Yahoo's competitor in the search engine business, with a view to arranging a similar deal (see archived stories). Jimmy Wales said that those talks still continue. Google has also recently begun to provide excerpts from Wikipedia articles with some search results – prefacing a search term with "who is" on google.com returns biographical details from Wikipedia where available; for example, Who is Ricky Tomlinson?.
In contrast with the Google negotiations, the Foundation managed to keep information about the Yahoo offer from getting out prior to the announcement. After the news was made public, Wikimedia Trustee Angela noted that "this offer had remained relatively private until today".