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Dvorak on Google and Wikipedia 449

cryptoluddite writes "PC Magazine has an article by John C. Dvorak expanding on the community discussion of Google's offer for free web hosting of Wikipedia. Those against the deal point out that Google may be planning to co-opt the encyclopedia as Googlepedia (by restricting access to the complete database). In a revealing speech given by the Google founders, Larry Page says he would 'like to see a model where you can buy into the world's content. Let's say you pay $20 per month.' Should public domain information be free?" It's a pretty scary scenario painted, but one can hardly take a speech from 2001 as serious evidence these days. Update: 02/16 20:16 GMT by T : This story links inadvertently to the second page of the column; here's a link to the first page.
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Dvorak on Google and Wikipedia

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  • Harsh on Google (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cracell ( 788266 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:57AM (#11677747)
    Google wouldn't be like msn and only show certain articles, plus that wouldn't work with wikipeida since it's user made/edited
    • by turnstyle ( 588788 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:12PM (#11677942) Homepage
      Regarding: "should public domain information be free?"...

      Public domain information is already free (free as in speech), but that doesn't mean that somebody can't also charge for it.

      It's no different than the GPL -- also free as in speech, but not necessarily free as in beer.

    • Re:Harsh on Google (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goldspider ( 445116 )
      "Google wouldn't be like msn and only show certain articles"

      Oh really? And how do you know that? Just because you know that Google isn't an EVIL company like Microsoft?

    • Re:Harsh on Google (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jarich ( 733129 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:31PM (#11678146) Homepage Journal
      plus that wouldn't work with wikipeida since it's user made/edited

      You mean like Google did with Usenet Newsgroups?

      Don't get me wrong, I like Google, but don't assume that they can't own the only database containing the 'free' information and provide access as they see fit. After all, they are paying to maintain it, right?

  • by Biff98 ( 633281 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:58AM (#11677756)
    Wow --

    "It's a pretty scary scenario painted, but one can hardly take a speech from 2001 as serious evidence these days."

    That's horrible.

    • That's not from the submitter. The submitter's comments are in italics. That quote was CowboyNeal's editorial comment...
  • Contract? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @11:58AM (#11677757) Homepage
    Wouldn't Wikipedia take measures to ensure nothing bad happened? I mean, that's what contracts are for...
  • I wonder if this would be a viable strategy for SBC to adopt with regards to AT&T's historical archives. It is absolutely true that AT&T's archives would serve a much broader purpose than mere technological curiosity, but SBC may decide that it does cost them to maintain the entire collection.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:00PM (#11677776)
    And this is another thing they can leverage in their war against MS... Next up, a total web-based OS (Firefox/Linux backend?)... Would be interesting to see where this is going; someone needs to stand up to the behemoth that is Microsoft, for the sake of all mankind!
  • In a revealing speech given by the Google founders, Larry Page says he would 'like to see a model where you can buy into the world's content. Let's say you pay $20 per month.'

    For a company that claims they are endevouring to never be evil, this strikes me as a pretty evil bait-and-switch type scheme to me.

    I think I'm going to start checking out Yahoo's search engine. Not because I think I'll ever prefer it, but because I think I'd better start getting used to it, just in case.
    • by Mr Guy ( 547690 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:04PM (#11677847) Journal
      In 2001, that was still a cutting edge idea. People knew there was a way to make everything accessable, but weren't entirely sure what revenue model could support that.

      $20 a month was (and is) a small price to pay for everything, if "everything" is correct and up to date.

      I'd certianly pay a subscription for Google now, because their service is of value to me.
      • it's not that small of a price....thats half my ISP cost - for something i will probably use a couple times a month (more if i am in research). As for evil - google is a company trying to increase their profit margin...that is why i always said - these guys are not angels they are in it for money.
      • ...and yet, I don't happen to see that "subscriber" asterisk next to your slashdot uid. I guess this content isn't worth money to you?

        For those who will respond I'm not a subscriber either, I never volunteered $20 a month for content that is (and should remain) free.
        • by Mr Guy ( 547690 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:26PM (#11678097) Journal
          In /. case, no, it's definitely not worth any money to me. I use /. to kill time while my project is building at work. Occasionally, there are articles that interest me. My contribution is not putting /. in adblock.

          Google is entirely different. It provides access to information in a format that is much more agreeable to me than other searches I've used. Unlike what others have claim, I regularly click on the ad links because they are often relevant to the information I'm looking for. I personally feel Google maps kicks the crap out of other tools. If they found a way to make their service significantly more usable, it would certainly be worth it to me.

          Hints (2 Things that'd move me closer to being willing to pay):

          Integrate Google maps with movie showtimes, as in IMDB's theater database. If possible, read my local paper and correlate showtimes from there, since not all my local theaters keep their times up to date online.

          Correlate restaraunt searches in google maps with reviews. I'd like a review aggregate for a total star rating of nearby messages when I get directions via SMS. I'd like to be able to filter places that google believes suck, based on their their review data.
        • Just keep in mind that nothing in this world is free. Someone will have to pay for it in one way or another, be it in money, equipment, time, etc.
      • by Queer Boy ( 451309 ) * <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:40PM (#11678259)
        $20 a month was (and is) a small price to pay for everything, if "everything" is correct and up to date.

        Not much to pay at all, I call it my Internet bill and that's why I have the internet.

        The internet was not created to provide a revenue model. Countless companies learned this in the dot.bomb. It's not like cable or satellite where my choices are limited and if I don't pay I don't get content. Wikipedia came about for a reason. If it goes subscription it immediately loses value because now articles are only maintained/created by subscribers.

        If it goes subscription another free/open online encyclopaedia will take its place, the same way that FreeDB came about after CDDB required buying a license to use in applications.

  • Google's one step closer to taking over the world now...
  • by dj_tsd ( 548135 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:00PM (#11677784) Homepage
    Just hosting Wikipedia would work with google's already profitable model. Why would they bother creating a fee based model for a community product?
    • It would only work with the existing model if they put adds around the articles. Would you trust an entry on, say Miami if there were travel company adds around it? Maybe, maybe not. It could work.

      Or it could be just a PR based charity move. Think Walmart and local community charity. Walmart gives money away, no stings attached all the time. The only thing they ask in return is good will from the locals (i.e. more shoppers). Soon they have recouped the charity money and then some.

      Google may be tryin
    • Dvorak is correct about Usenet Deja-News and the terrible job Google has done to it. If the Wikipedia suffers a similar fate it would be just as useless. No matter how many ads are on a page no one visits, the hit counts will tell the tale..
  • Oh great. (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:01PM (#11677788)
    What do we do if Google turns evil?

  • There could be (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Exter-C ( 310390 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:01PM (#11677790) Homepage
    This is something that will be very interesting. The information in wikipedia should be available to everyone for free. There could be an interesting situation where people could subscribe to a service to have no advertising. That way it would pay for the wikipedia services to continue running, while still providing the benefit to the community. I know I use online services reguarly and its something that I would pay a nominal fee for without complaining to much.
    However it must have both free and subscription based services for it to be a viable system.

  • by guitaristx ( 791223 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:01PM (#11677797) Journal
    Lots of people know that Wikipedia hasn't had the server power to keep up, but a pay-for-service model isn't the answer. A free web-based encyclopedia is what makes wikipedia so great.
    • Wrong. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:44PM (#11678304) Homepage
      You're wrong. The problem wasn't that we didn't have enough servers, but that the servers we had were misconfigured. The slowness experienced in January was resolved when the configuration bugs were ironed out. The problem is a lack of skilled sysadmins and developers. (And for the record, we just put in an order for 10 more servers)
      • You're both a bit right. Here's a highlight view of some of the things happening during that week:
        • New squid cache servers in Paris. After network bandwidth issues there were resolved they speeded up access in bits of Europe. But they also slowed down all page saves because saves also tell the Squids to remove (flush) related pages from their cache and those more distant servers took longer to flush. Can be tens of thousands of flushes to do. Squid flushing/purging is now much faster and longer term it's
  • Licensing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omicron32 ( 646469 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:01PM (#11677799)
    I thought the content on Wikipedia was licensed under a free, open license? How can Google "revoke" that to do this?
    • Re:Licensing? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by maztuhblastah ( 745586 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:11PM (#11677934) Journal
      They can't...but has that ever stopped Dvorak from one of his "predictions", i.e. Wild Ass Guesses (TM), before? Seriously, this guy is just a pundit. He makes his living by spouting off stupid, controversial crap...that's the only reason that he's published: controversy == readers/sales.

      Bottom line: again, Dvorak's talking out of his ass, just like when he claimed that there were almost no linux applications that could run on the PS2, he's making an uninformed guess based on something he heard somewhere.
    • Re:Licensing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by pohl ( 872 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:29PM (#11678131) Homepage
      Not only that, but the open content license also allows Google to profit from providing premium access (read: low-latency) to their own instance of the content. This sort of scenario was anticipated from the beginning when the content license was discussed, and it was considered to be an indicator of success.
    • Re:Licensing? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:47PM (#11678331) Homepage
      They cannot. This article is nonsensical FUD from someone who doesn't know what he is talking about. (--A wikipedia admin)
      • Re:Licensing? (Score:3, Insightful)

        They cannot restrict copying of the content, but they can limit access to it via Google's servers. The GFDL does not prevent this.

        That's why it's important that there are always a few people maintaining mirrors of the entire Wikipedia.

        It's also important that if Google ever stops the ability to make mirrors of the entire Wikipedia including updates and update history, that a big public fuss is made.

        If you think it can't happen due to Wikipedia's license, think again: Usenet is presumably public domai

        • Re:Licensing? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Raul654 ( 453029 )
          "They cannot restrict copying of the content, but they can limit access to it via Google's servers." - Wrong. The GFDL requires them to provide a transparent copy on a nondiscriminatory basis. Wikipedia does this via, and google would be obligated, at the very least, to provide something similiar.
  • by humuhumunukunukuapu' ( 678704 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:01PM (#11677800)
    It's not like Wikipedia is the only place to get information on the internet [and don't forget that real world out there].

    if someone ruins it, sure it is a shame, but something else will pop up to replace it. The internet is just a big game of whack-a-mole, no matter if you are the RIAA, the Feds, a kiddie porn fiend, or a information seeker.

    It's kind of the whole point...

  • by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:03PM (#11677817) Homepage
    hose against the deal point out that Google may be planning to co-opt the encyclopedia as Googlepedia (by restricting access to the complete database).

    Can they do that? The wikipedia is governed by the GNU Free Documentation License . . .wikipedia details here [].

    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:28PM (#11678117)
      Anything this particular source suggests comes with a salt shaker full of salt for me.

      Dvorak's doing much the same thing for the tech industry that your paper's sports columnists do for the local teams. His role isn't "provide a balanced picture of such-and-so," it's more like "provoke a reaction by pushing every subject to distorted extremes."

      Every sports section has at least one writer like that. Their job is to generate traffic, or responses, by staking out polemical opinions. Usually the one writer who pulls this duty paints a bleak picture of the local teams' moves, so as to get the loyalists to write in. It helps circulation. The same people work extra shifts on call-in shows, pretty often.

      In this case, our sage has consistently been on the wrong side of basically every technology he's commented on in my book. He's a sort of gadfly to all things Apple, for example. (His reaction to the idea of the mouse was as spectacularly wrong as anything ever written on computers.)

  • 'Twould be a pity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by banana fiend ( 611664 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:03PM (#11677819)
    IF (and it IS an if), google do start restricting and charging - it would be a pity.

    This information was collected for free, and would be disseminated at a cost. While this has been done before (volunteer organisations are not new) - it would probably lead people away from making the effort in the next thing that comes along and is "by the people for the people"

  • by Neophytus ( 642863 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:03PM (#11677831)
    Speculation runs rife. I guess security through well... not very obscurity's bound to get someone chatting in the end.

    The deal in the short to medium term with wikipedia is expected to be the provision of about a dozen caching servers. No actual database work would be done by google. There is already a small (3) squid [] cluster in Paris [] that does this for users in the UK and France saving on some transatlantic bandwidth.
  • by Morosoph ( 693565 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:04PM (#11677835) Homepage Journal
    It would smack of 'evil' in contradiction to his company's motto. More likely, he would use it, like Google News, as a draw to Google, gaining mind-share, and indirectly boosting revenues.

    Whether Wikipedia should accept is another matter. I don't think that they should. It's much easier to appear independent if you have to pay your way, and for an encyclopedia, appearing independent is really pretty important.

  • by eseiat ( 650560 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:04PM (#11677840) Homepage
    Should public domain information be free?

    Yes, yes it should indeed be free. Information is the essential ingredient to the advancement of society. This is why public libraries, schools, and lectures were created, so that information could be dissemenated to all individuals who actively sought it out for themselves and for their children. Charging $20 a month for access to information is an outrageous idea and is particularly frightening when uttered by an individual whose company holds the key to so much of the electronic information on the web. I think if they continue with his "vision" of the future, Google's usage will plummet quite rapidly.

    Hasn't the Open Source community taught anyone the value of free information exchange??

    • by Mr Guy ( 547690 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:10PM (#11677917) Journal
      Look where the quotes end. HIS vision at that time was that Google would be able to answer any question, at any time, as fast as you asked it. Think of Google even more than Google is now (staggering). Google that can answer questions like Ask Jeeves tried to. Google that can, perhaps, anticipate your next question. Google that not only references what's available, but makes educated guesses at what isn't available (Your result turned up no matches, perhaps you meant... or Your result turned no matches, your local library has a book...) and is able to provide you with what you probably really meant in a nonobtrusive manner (You searched for Chinese restaraunts near you, look at the bottom of the page for reviews of these restaraunts).

      Google has already done amazing things with aggregating data that is useful to the searcher. If they could take it much farther, $20 a month would be a small price to pay.
    • First off, I am against charging $20 a month for info. But Google isn't the first to do this. There are websites that will charge you for your credit report, in my state you're allowed to see your credit report free every 6 months. They also charge an extra fee for seeing your credit score. Public court records are also sold on the internet. So, yes, it is bad for google to want to charge for something that is free, but they are definately not the first company to come up with this idea.
    • Yes, yes it should indeed be free. Information is the essential ingredient to the advancement of society. This is why public libraries, schools, and lectures were created...

      Um.. Who is paying for all these "free" institutions? (Hint: They aren't "free") There has to be a revenue model somewhere. It could be use fees, it could be a progressive tax system, it could be a regressive tax system, but it is not free. To ignore that fact and claim that charging money to access information is evil is dising

    • by danbeck ( 5706 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:37PM (#11678210)
      Sure, the information should be free, but who is going to pay for the webservers to host it? Or the bandwidth to deliver it?

      You may erroneously think that your local library is free, but in fact it's not. You pay taxes that fund the library. The government doesn't have some magic pot of gold that it pays for that stuff you know... it's most certainly *not* free.
  • What is this Dvorak smoking? Is his article old, because I see Groups on the start page of Google and I logged in and used it yesterday to find some code on making Windows Z-Order behave and making transparent windows without the Platform SDK installed. His other complaint that Groups is in Beta is bogus too, when you consider that a Google Beta is more like a released product from other companies, hell it is better then most companies version 2.0 of a product. Then there is the whole Google is company s
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:06PM (#11677868) Homepage Journal
    As I understand it, Google Groups is just one more interface to Usenet, like zillion others offered by ISPs, schools, and other servers. The propogation mechanism of messages is still the same, and they just offered a way for people to access News using a web based interface (lots of other sites offer this) rather than through a regular News reader (rtin, etc).

    I'm fine with Google offering a faster mirror/interface to Wikipedia, because mirroring of information is always good. From the last /. article on the subject, I gathered that Google would offer their faster processing power and ub3r bandwidth to Wikipedia....but that doesn't necessarily mean they get to hijack the content....they'd just provide a faster way to get to information that's mirrored elsewhere.

  • Sure public domain information should be free, as in belonging to the public domain. However, if someone hosts that information on their servers and provides interesting/useful means of searching and accessing that info, they're within their rights to charge for it. I don't just mean legally, but ethically too. At that point, they aren't charging for the info, they're charging for the service.

    If it's not worth it, don't pay for their service, and find another means of accessing that same info. (If it's

  • I suspect they would have something like the normal wikipedia, and then on some articles have a "premium content" which is written by a professional researcher and all sources verified. Right now wikipedia is great but you can't use it as a source in a paper/essay without going out and checking all the facts yourself as well (which isn't nessercarily a bad thing). Having a free publicly written entry, with a link to a paid guarranteed accurate entry wouldn't be so bad. Then again what do I know, maybe goog
    • by Sebby ( 238625 )
      As soon as you start having people being paid to write for it you're likely to have bias or other form of non-accurate info, not that it's not perhaps happening now, but at least we don't pay to see possible propaganda as a 'premium' feature.

  • Keep it free. No ads either.

    But... "premium members" get access to a version where the articles written by agenda-driven lunatics are color-coded in a red font and the stuff plagiarized and submitted by high school kids on a dare is in blue.

    Whaddya think?
  • by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:08PM (#11677900) Homepage
    First, if the relationship between the Wikipedia and Google can be properly maintained, and boundaries established, I think this is a good thing for the Wikipedia.

    People are fearful that Google will attempt to co-opt the Wikipedia. That's what is apparent in the Dvorak article. However, what Wikipedia needs is a slick lawyer to write a contract between Google and Wikipedia. (IANASL)

    1. Google will host the Wikipedia as a donation.
    2. Google will not restrict access to the Wikipedia except as mutually agreed upon by both parties, and a public page to explain what restrictions and why. At no time will restrictions be based upon subscriptions or charges.
    3. Wikipedia will put a slick Google icon somewhere on the page to say "thanks Google for hosting us."
    4. This agreement may be terminated with fair notice to the other party at any time.

    If Wikipedia is able to maintain its autonomy, and the relationship is clearly labelled a donation of server space, then I think the Wikipedia could be hosted on Google.
  • DON'T PANIC (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quinn_Inuit ( 760445 ) <Quinn_Inuit@yah o o . c om> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:08PM (#11677901)
    First, Wikipedia is licensed in such a way that, if I want a copy of the whole thing to fork it, they have to give it to me. If someone doesn't like where it's going, they can start up their own. The GNU FDL isn't perfect, but it'll work as advertised.

    Second, Google may just want to be in on the ground floor if and when Wikipedia decides to allow Adsense-type ads.

    Third, companies do often do charitable things. It's a tax write-off.

    Given those three things, I recommend that some commenters pay attention to the big, friendly letters in the subject line.

  • I wouldn't want to see another company appropriate free work from volonteers like the @#$%@ at Gracenote did with FreeDB.

    SCO already tried to 'pull a Gracenote' and it's not unreasonable to think others (not necessarily Google) would try the same with Wikipedia

  • Usenet... (Score:2, Interesting)

    Still IS on the front page of google...well 1 click away. And the search is still perfectly usable...what IS Dvorak on about?

    While I will agree with him that DejaNews should NEVER have ended up in the hands of a corporate entity when the oportunity came for it to enter public hands; google havnt done a bad job of maintaining it. Its just a pitty no-one has come up with a service to compete with Google on that level since it COULD be a lot better.
  • by saddino ( 183491 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:11PM (#11677933)
    In a revealing speech given by the Google founders, Larry Page says he would 'like to see a model where you can buy into the world's content. Let's say you pay $20 per month.

    The only thing "revealing" about that article is that Page continues "Somebody else needs to figure out how to reward all the people who create the things that you use. " In other words, what Page would like to see is a system where "users" pay for accessing content and "contributors" are paid for providing it.

    This /. story could have equally read "Does Google Want to Pay Wiki authors?" but of course, that would have derailed cryptoluddite's agenda to smear Google.

    To the editors: when you see the words may be planning, just ignore the submission in the future. TIA.
  • Where to start? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:15PM (#11677984) Journal
    I'm getting ADD trying to figure out where to begin to start responding to this -- Dvorak's claim that Google is somehow responsible for the demise of Usenet as a result of their ownership of the DejaNews archive is so moronic that I can't bring myself to move on to the Wikipedia issue.

    It seems obvious enough to me that DejaNews/Google Groups has kept Usenet far more prominent than it would have been otherwise (Dvorak doesn't seem to get that the archive isn't ownership of Usenet itself), but given that he's claiming that Groups isn't linked off the Google front page at all, why bother arguing details.

    Whatever. If dumbasses who have seen Star Wars too many times enjoy droning on about how Google used to be Good and Not Evil, but is now Evil, who am I to argue? At any rate, Wikipedia isn't going anywhere.

  • Dvorak is stale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BrK ( 39585 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:17PM (#11677992) Homepage
    15 or so years ago Dvorak had some insightful articles, even if they didn't always come 100% true. Nowadays he's another has-been from a past era trying to pimp his FUD and general tech conspiracy theories. IMO, if you steadily bet AGAINST Dvorak you'll come out ahead over the long run.

    In the days of 10Mhz 286's I used to really enjoy John's columns. Now, I don't know if I've just gotten smarter, or he's gotten dumber (heh), but I can't remember the last time he didn't seem like a technology lunatic to me.
    • Re:Dvorak is stale (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
      I remember reading PC Magazine when I was 15, and I just gobbled up his blurbs about the new, shiny things that were coming out on the market. Then I stopped reading PC Mag for a couple years.

      At 18 or so, I picked it up again and took a look. The Internet was becoming prevailant, and his stuff was swill. Pure nonsense, really. He was at least 6 months behind what the Internet (largely via slashdot) had already alerted me to what was going on, and going to happen. This was in 1998 or 1999.

      I recognized him
    • Re:Dvorak is stale (Score:3, Informative)

      by llywrch ( 9023 )
      > 15 or so years ago Dvorak had some insightful articles, even if they didn't always come 100% true. Nowadays
      > he's another has-been from a past era trying to pimp his FUD and general tech conspiracy theories. IMO, if you
      > steadily bet AGAINST Dvorak you'll come out ahead over the long run.

      You got it in one. Dvorak must have remembered that he had a column due, indulged in his intoxicant of choice, picked some random news items & used them as an excuse to indulge in some superifical reflection

  • I'm *not* necessarily taking Google's side here, just playing devil's advocate to see what happens with the discussion.

    IANAL, but free (beer) != free (unencumbered). An encyclopedia might be PD, which means there are no restrictions on copying or using it, but you still may need to pay some sort of money to acquire the material. You *are* paying for your internet connection to get to the webopedia, right?

    Likewise, IIRC, Dover Books [] makes money by reprinting old textbooks that have gone PD after thei
  • Land Grab (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:18PM (#11678001) Homepage Journal
    This is just like what happened to the CDDB (Compact Disc DataBase). It was open source, public server, free client. Millions of us entered our CD data, in exchange for access to everyone else's data, for free. Then the founders sold the operation to GraceNote corporation, which took it proprietary, and slapped licensing restrictions on access, protected by secure login - locking out all the "owners" of the shared data we'd entered.

    Some other people cloned the DB server into FreeDB [], and jumpstarted it by datamining the CDDB server while it was still publicly accessible. We'll probably need to do that with Wikipedia. How big is it? Since "Content is available under GNU Free Documentation License", we should take a page from the FreeDB folks who saved our data from privateering clutches. How big is Wikipedia, in GB? Sounds like a job for BitTorrent, or perhaps, or maybe a more passive archive, which would redistribute it only if access is restricted. Just distributing copies of the valuable data we've all produced would probably preempt Google, or any other "benefactor" from taking Wikipedia private. Let's not repeat the history that stole from us.
    • Re:Land Grab (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FroBugg ( 24957 )
      The CDDB thing comes to mind, obviously, but it's a very different situation.

      All the contributions to CDDB were merely info copied from liner notes and CD cases by fans with some free time. GraceNote was a bastard when they went closed, but it's hard to argue that the information was owned by anyone (except perhaps the original artists).

      With Wikipedia, you've got original works. These are things that are copyrightable, and as far as I know, the original authors of all the articles still retain their copyr
  • "serious evidence" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:18PM (#11678011) Homepage
    As serious evidence? No. But thanks for the commentary.

    No, what it is telling of though, is the mindset at Google at the time of writing. This little insight is important now because it's quite possible that their end goal is to monopolize information in such a way as to extract their income from it.

    As they've recently made copious amounts of money and gained incredible power, it's quite possible its gone to their heads. Let's not paint them as a humanitarian group just because we like them: they are a company, after all, and have the same potential for evil that Microsoft (or any large company or government) has and does demonstrate.
  • Dvorak? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cytlid ( 95255 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:21PM (#11678047)
    That the same guy in PC magazine? I used to read that eons ago... I found myself in the grocery store and read his latest column (in PC Mag). It was kinda interesting, he was mentioning the Cell processor.

    But he incorrectly stated, not once -- but three times, that the Cell was going to be a 250 "Teraflop" processor.

    Dunno about him, but everywhere I've seen info on this chip, it was a gigaflop processor, not teraflop. Don't believe me? Go pick up the most recent PC Magazine, see for yourself.

  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:24PM (#11678077) Homepage
    Books that are in the public domain still cost money. Anyone has rights to publish them, but publishing them is still a business enterprise and still costs money. If google hosts Wikipedia, they ought to be able to attempt to make money off of it, but NOT by leveraging IP ownership or DRM. As long as the information can still be freely distributed as a public domain resource, mirrored by other interested parties, etc., then I don't see a problem with google hosting and charging for access.
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:31PM (#11678141) Homepage Journal
    "One risk of that is that people don't get paid for their content, which is clearly a problem. I'd personally like to see a model where you can buy into the world's content. Let's say you pay $20 per month and get access to the world. Somebody else needs to figure out how to reward all the people who create the things that you use."

    It seems to me that they're talking about copyrighted content here. Rather than concocting a plan to bundle up free content and make people pay Google for access, it looks to me like Page was actually talking about reasonable means of access to copyrighted information.

  • I'm sorry, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Cydonian ( 603441 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:33PM (#11678162) Homepage Journal
    but I think no one here has been paying enough attention to Microsoft lately.

    In particular, ladies and gentlemen, consider MSN Search's fantastic Encarta Integration [] feature; you ask, for instance, "Who killed Abraham Lincoln? [] (to take MSN's own sample search string), and it gives you the answer. As much as I hate MSN, I think this makes it MSN 1 - Google 0; nope, Google's integration just doesn't match.

    I'd consider Google's offer of hosting Wikipedia sites in the light of this feature offering by Microsoft.

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:34PM (#11678170)
    Just offering a free service, in exchange perhaps to displaying some text ads or offering more relevant results to their searches. If someone is not satisfied, he can always host a copy himself.

    As for subscription or pay-per-view information services, I am all for it, even for $100 per month, if the knowledge/art I get is not further restricted - I can burn a CD and give it to someone who can not afford access.
  • Seriously, who gives a flip what John Dvorak burped up this week? He's a whored out hack whose career has declined to regularly posting outrageous things in a bid to get attention and pretend some degree of relevancy.

    PC Magazine is zombie, it's empire crumbled, aside from it's regular product comparison charts (which are widely blamed for much of today's feature-bloat) nobody would still be aware of it's continued existence. From that sad little bailiwick Dvorak bleats for attention and worse yet the gullible wanna-be defenders rush to dispute him.

    This week he's on a smear against Google & Wikipedia. It could as well been another (willfully) know-nothing Linux FUD article, or another Mac-troll, or whatever. They're all trash and only PHB's struck in the 80's still pay the slightest attention to his "opinions" (quotes because I don't think be means a bit of what he says himself.)

    The folks who run Wikipedia are notably honest. To date the folks at Google have done pretty well by their "No Evil" credo. Everything on Wikipedia is open so if need be it could be quickly reconstituted elsewhere. Thus, whatever the negotiations between Wikipedia & Google there's nothing to fear.

    If the current Wikipedia administration does something heinously stupid the project will route around them. Besides which the best guesses are Google is talking bandwidth & caching, perhaps prioritized ranking, not ownership.

    Dvorak, he's taking an old quote out of context and trying to create a scare. That's not reporting, or even editorializing, that's just baiting, pure & simple. Don't play into his game, he's the SCO of journalism.

  • This is all fud (Score:5, Informative)

    by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:40PM (#11678254) Homepage
    First, full discloser - I'm a long time wikipedia user and I probably accidentally played a peripheral role in breaking this story. I first heard about the google deal back in July. Google is not the first company to offer to host wikipedia. The typical offer comes from "Mom and Pop ISPs" (Jimbo's words) that really don't have any idea what they're getting themselves into (1,400 hits/sec is a helleva lot to do for free). What I have to say in reply to this story is - it is, IMHO, totally FUD. It's completely hypothetical, and it's unrealistic. You have to remember - all the text on Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License or in the public domain; all the images and audio are licensed under the GNU Free Documetnation license, or CC-by-SA, or something liberal equivalent. So even if, on the off chance, Google succumbs to the Corporate pressure to be evil, anyone can take the text and reuse it in less evil ways. Furthmore, I trust Jimbo, Angela, and Anthere (the visible members of the board) in dealing with google to make sure the deal is done right by the rest of us contributors. There's a long history on Wikipedia of being against ads of any form - the spanish wikipedia forked several years ago over hypothetical discussion of it.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @12:46PM (#11678317)
    I fear that authors/editors would withdraw from Wikipedia if it were under the arm (or in the iron-fist) of a for-profit company. If these people felt like Google was profiting on the backs of their freely-contributed content, these content creators would leave and the Wiki would whither for lack of fresh/updated content. Donating time so that other may profit does not seem likely.

    What is interesting is that Amazon makes this work. The company is clearly a for-profit entity. Yet its crown jewels are the volunteer-created book reviews. I'm not sure what makes this work. It might be that friends-of-authors are motivated to post glowing reviews, it might be that people who disliked the book are motivated to post scathing reviews, it might be that some reviewers simply like to publish, or all of the above. Perhaps Wiki/Google-pedia could borrow this model to mix free-labor with for-profit.

    Looking further into the future on an alternate path, I wonder if Googlepedia could become a fully for-profit (or at least self-sufficient) professionally run and staffed encyclopedia. With micro-royalties to authors/editors (and moderation-based revocation of payments for "bad" content), the organization would attract content creators on a for-pay basis. This aligns the motivational underpinnings of the organization with those of the content creators. The current Wikipedia is for-free people creating for-free content. A future Googlepedia could by for-pay people creating for-pay content.

    One overriding lesson from Wikipedia (and Slashdot for that matter) is the ultimate necessity of sources of hard currency for online sites. As long as something is small (and below a certain scale of popularity) it can survive on donated hardware, bandwidth, or the benevolence of a monied patron (someone who pays the hosting bills out-of-pocket). But once it reaches a certain scale, the cost of serious server power, bandwidth, and professional administrators pushes the budget far beyond the hobby scale. Although pleas for donations can help, I suspect large-scale sites must, ultimately, turn to ads, tie-in product sales, and subscriptions.

    What is fascinating, in a long-term trend sense, is that the cost of scale are steadily declining. Cheaper hardware, declining bandwidth costs, and improvements in systems management tools mean that sites can reach ever-larger scales before generating prohibitive burn rates on costs. The number of visitors that a hobbyist/free-site can support continues to rise. Perhaps Wike need only wait for the singularity point when the cost to reach (and serve packets to) the entire world is within the reach of a home-grown, volunteer-run organization.
  • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:00PM (#11678452) Homepage
    Information can be free, sure. The process of obtaining that free information is not necessarily free. The free information is hosted on a server that must be bought, and transmitted over a connection that must be bought. If it's a large-scale hosting project, support staff must be present to keep it working, and these staff must be paid. The person accessing the information is paying their ISP for their own connection, and had to buy their own computer. How much would you pay for a wikipedia that responded to requests as fast as Google does to searches?
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:13PM (#11678581) Homepage Journal

    The speech certainly is revealing - it reveals cryptoluddite's agenda, which is anti-google.

    One risk [] of that is that people don't get paid for their content, which is clearly a problem. I'd personally like to see a model where you can buy into the world's content. Let's say you pay $20 per month and get access to the world. Somebody else needs to figure out how to reward all the people who create the things that you use. This is basically what happens with a lot of systems today. Radio stations pay into a big fund, and then the organization decides which labels and which artists to reimburse, based on what got played on the radio. It's a nice model because it allows access to everyone for everything that exists, but you don't have to think about, "Oh, I'm going to spend five cents to look at this web page" or things like that. That will allow content producers to still get rewarded for what they do.

    If you look at the quote in context, I think it's pretty clear that google is not talking about doing the selling, unless they are the gateway to ALL the content. They will never be that gateway. I do think that there is a market for commercial versions of some of this media, but I think the future is that you will pay only for directed media, and for convenient access to media. For instance a newspaper will have several classes of information, based on what they think they can sell to who; There will be information that is free on the web and also in print, information that is included in the cost of the paper but for which you must pay extra on the web, and so on.

    In the meantime sites like E2 and Wikipedia will probably be freely available for the forseeable future, but I would like to see them have commercial or "pro" versions of the site. For example, the pay site would have full-text searching, and the free side might not (and in both cases, currently does not.) You would also be able to enter RFBs for research papers, and you could accept them based on price and posting history. This model would work better for E2 than for Wikipedia due to Wikipedia's collaborative nature, but it is not inapplicable to Wikipedia.

    Anyway, any comissioned research would become a part of the database at an appropriate time (possibly part of the license agreement) and thus everyone would benefit. At the minimum, the site would make a commission, which would definitely benefit all of the service's users.

    This is precisely the way software is going, and I don't see any reason that all kinds of media won't see the same development. In fact, I see no way that any kind of media can survive without making this transition.

  • Storage allocation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lynx_user_abroad ( 323975 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:14PM (#11678594) Homepage Journal
    There are two ways to destroy a file; you can overwrite the blocks with zeros, or you can remove the inode.

    Similarly, there are two ways to stop people from reading a library book: you can remove the book from the shelf, or you can just remove it's entry in the card catalog.

    We should all keep in mind that Google is becomming the "card catalog" for much of the on-line world. Many would argue that if it doesn't exist on the from page of a Google search, then for most of the world, it just doesn't exist.

  • by CashCarSTAR ( 548853 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @01:32PM (#11678805)
    Would be more like 20 bucks for access to ALL the world's content. Lexis-Nexis, academic journals, and other subscription only services. Access to all of 'em.

    Would be nice. I'd pay for it in a heartbeat.
  • by maveric149 ( 250323 ) on Tuesday February 15, 2005 @03:12PM (#11680027) Homepage
    First any offer of hosting by Google or anybody else for that matter will not make the 40 or so servers that the Wikimedia Founation already owns go away or stop the foundation from paying its own hosting costs for those servers. Nor will it stop donations from coming in so the foundation can buy more hardware and bandwidth. And the foundation is *not* going to just rely on any one hosting partner but will instead seek out and act upon multiple offers (this is in fact necessary due to the exponential growth of traffic to the sites it operates; such as

    The most glaring omission Dvorak makes is the simple fact that due to the license Wikipedia uses, that it would be impossible for any one company to control it. If the 'end' were really near, somebody with better intentions could just download the *whole* Wikipedia and host it. But it would never come to that because the foundation would not allow it ; its very mission is to ensure free access to the projects it runs.

    I'm very disappointed in Dvorak.

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"