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Big Tech firms are facing a big bill from Wikipedia – here’s why

Wikipedia’s parent company has announced it is to begin charging major technology companies to access the online encyclopaedia’s vast trove of knowledge.

The Wikipedia Enterprise initiative will launch later this year and could see the likes of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon paying fees to access content they’ve been using without traditional compensation for years.

Until now, the burden has been on benevolent Wikipedia users to keep the non-profit Wikipedia Foundation via donations – of which the aforementioned firms are often among – but now the balance will be redressed by tech giants and, eventually, smaller companies.

“Wikimedia Enterprise is a new product from the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects,” the foundation says. “Wikimedia Enterprise provides paid developer tools and services that make it easier for companies and organisations to consume and re-use Wikimedia data.”

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The new initiative was announced on Tuesday and came to light via a Wired report, which revealed conversations are ongoing between Wikimedia and a number of tech giants who’re already in discussions over an agreement.

“This is the first time the foundation has recognised that commercial users are users of our service,” says Wikimedia Foundation senior director Lane Becker in an interview. “We’ve known they are there, but we never really treated them as a user base.”

Apple, for example, leverages Wikipedia for Siri’s knowledge bank, but currently doesn’t officially pay for that content. It does match employee donations to Wikipedia though.

Amazon uses the tech for Alexa and donated $1 million in 2018. Google, who heavily leverages results from Wikipedia in Search while using excepts in its knowledge boxes, donated $2 million in 2019. Facebook also chucked in a million in 2018. It’s not clear how regular those donations have been since.

Do you think it’s time Big Tech started footing the bill for Wikipedia? Will it help to secure the non-profit company’s future? Let us know @trustedreviews on Twitter.