In a chat with Guy Kawasaki at South by Southwest, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales spoke out about self-interested parties editing their own pages on the Internet’s collaborative encyclopedia.
“Companies think it’s a powerful marketing tool but I think they’re deranged and should leave us alone,” said Wales. Yet he believes that the best public relations teams know better and would rather avoid the embarrassment of getting caught publishing something misleading.
“The top PR companies tend to be very good about their interactions with Wikipedia,” Wales insists.
Wales spoke of the origins of Wikipedia, which was a pivot from the now-defunct Nupedia. “In order to succeed we had to be more academic than a traditional encyclopedia,” he said.
Wikipedia, and the umbrella of sites under the Wikimedia Foundation are among the most prolific on the Internet. Alexa.com ranks Wikipedia.org as the 7th-most trafficked site in the world.
And that’s without the help of China, where Wikipedia is banned. Wales said that the shift to SSL security has made it harder for countries to filter portions of Wikipedia. “We won’t compromise and they don’t seem likely to compromise anytime soon,” he says of China.
Wales also touched on the team’s ongoing legal battle with the United States, with concerns over the NSA surveillance. These were “serious implications for freedom of expression,” according to Wales.
He said that the rise of smartphones could lead to a decline in income for his businesses. While Wikipedia is ad-free, Wales is involved with other projects, including Wikia fan pages, which have ads. “Revenue per page view on mobile is a lot lower than on desktop,” said Wales. “We could be in a situation — if certain trends continue…it could have half the revenue that it does today.”
Wales also spoke of his fascination with driverless cars and shipwrecks, and his disdain for Donald Trump. “Because I already live in London, I can’t threaten to leave the country if Donald Trump is elected president.”
He’s not worried about robots taking over Wikipedia anytime soon. “Once computers are able to write encyclopedia articles…we’ve got bigger things to worry about,” said Wales.