With my tech evangelist hat on...
Google's philanthropy is nearly boundless when it comes to the promotion of
knowledge. Why? Because indeed it's in their best interest otherwise no
one can prosper without knowledge. They aggregate knowledge for the
benefit of mankind, and then make a profit through advertising ... all
while making that knowledge extremely easy to be found for the world.
Nothing in this world is entirely free (servers must spin, cooling must be
provided, bugs squashed...).
To that end, Google and others understand this and help defray
substantial costs of providing free knowledge in multiple domains
especially in those domains that contribute to tech and human goodwill
(science & medicine).
Sometimes with direct cash donations to WMF, even just this year with $2
million being decided by Google employees to give to WMF!!!
Other times it's with talent from interns they pay for during the summer,
or tech knowledge exchanges to help tackle problems we have.
Still other times it's just their 20% employee time helping the world keep
Open Source libraries up to date or giving the world Open Source tools that
we ourselves use across WMF every minute of the day.
Then there are all the trickle down benefits (increasing privacy, REALLY?,
reducing security risks, better performance, etc.) from those Open Source
libraries & tools with things like ClusterFuzz
TensorFlow, Go, Kubernetes, and 1000's of others.
On Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 5:25 AM Luca Martinelli <martinelliluca(a)gmail.com
> Hi Sebastian,
> I'll try to take on some of your
doubts, hopefully helping you to
> solve them, or at least to give you some starting points.
> Il giorno ven 20 set 2019 alle ore 10:48
> <hellmann(a)informatik.uni-leipzig.de> ha scritto:
> > 1. there was a Knowledge Engine Project which failed, but in principle
> had the right idea:
> > This was aimed to "democratize
the discovery of media, news and
> information", in particular counter-moving the traffic sink by Google
> providing Wikipedia's information in Google Search.
> I don't remember/know much about the
Knowledge Engine (KE), but to
> quote Liam Wyatt/User:Wittylama, "the crime wasn't thinking about it,
> it was the cover-up".
> In other words, and based on what I
remember and know, the Wikipedia
> internal search engine always sucked, and KE was an hypothesis of
> solving this problem. The main problems were:
> 1) an overall sensation - I repeat: SENSATION - that WMF was ready to
> compete with Google on the "search engine market", something that was
> never discussed within and/or with the community;
> 2) that this project was pushed in a very "secretive" way, i.e. it was
> discovered by chance with an announcement of WMF winning a grant from
> [I don't remember which institution, sorry], and the more questions
> were raised about it, the less answers the then-Executive Director
> seemed to be willing to give.
> IMHO, having an internal engine that helps
people getting what they're
> looking for is a great idea, and the way it was conducted was indeed a
> crime, because (again IMHO) we lost a good opportunity to start our
> work several years in advance. What makes me still angry about it was
> the way the whole thing was conducted: we still lack most pieces of
> the whole thing, and this may fuel non-NPOV reconstructions as well as
> unnecessary spin-off discussions that bring us further away from the
> solution we were trying to achieve.
> > Now that there is Wikidata, this is
much better for Google because they
> can take the CC-0 data as they wish.
> KE and Wikidata are two separate issues.
I'm sure Wikidata would have
> played a role in KE, given its important role in linking concepts and
> items, but they're still two separate things.
> As for Google picking data from Wikidata,
they do the same from
> countless databases (disregarding of their license), so all I can say
> is that, if I were Google, I'd do the very same thing. The difference
> between Google and Wikidata, and the reason why I still think Wikidata
> is better, is that the latter releases its data to *everybody*, while
> the former keeps it only to itself.
> And I want to stress that
"everybody" part: when we do synchronisation
> with a GLAM database, we give them back an extremely valuable
> feedback, in terms of link to other databases they can freely access,
> as well as in terms of hints for data clean-up - which, again, is
> something that Google doesn't provide at all.
> > 3. I was under the impression that
Google bought Freebase and then
> started Wikidata as a non-threatening model to the data they have in their
> Knowledge Graph
> >Could someone give me some pointers about the financial connections of
> Google and Wikimedia (this should be transparent, right?) and also who
> pushed the Wikidata movement into life in 2012?
> Wikidata started as an independent project
by some of the people who
> worked on Semantic MediaWiki (there are so many of them I fear I might
> miss some of them, and that would be embarrassing for me), not as a
> Google project.
> It was originally financed *also* by
Google, yes, but it was a small
> part compared to the aid from other institutions, such as the Allen
> Institute for Artificial Intelligence, the Gordon and Betty Moore
> Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation itself, and others.
> > Google was also mentioned in
> it reads "Freebase, was discontinued because of the superiority of
> Wikidata’s approach and active community." I know the story as: Google
> didn't want its competitors to have the data and the service. Not much of
> Freebase did end up in Wikidata.
> I remember the story as "Google
couldn't make anymore money out of
> Freebase, that was being also superseded by other internal systems
> *and* Wikidata, so Denny pushed Google to donate Freebase's triples to
> This is basically the same (well, with due
proportions) that happened
> with OpenRefine, which originally was called Google Refine and that
> was discontinued because Google couldn't do any profit with it, and
> now is one of the most valuable tools that we can use to clean up and
> re-conciliate data with Wikidata.
> As for the integration of the data, I
don't have any precise data
> about it, but I'm sure that a fair part of Freebase did end up in
> Wikidata, just as much as many other big databases did.
> > As I said, I don't want to push
any opinions in any directions. I am
> more asking for more information about the connection of Google to Wikidata
> (financially), then Google to WMF and also I am asking about any strategic
> advantages for Google in relation to their competition.
> I cannot properly answer you about this.
WMF and Google are in my view
> "frenemies": Google is, and will always be, a Big Tech company and WMF
> is, and will always be, a champion of free knowledge. You just can't
> do free knowledge by forcing Big Tech companies to NOT pick up your
> tools and data, though, as much I as think it'd be unnecessary for us
> just to NOT take any help from Google, if we can work together on
> several objectives. This is ok to me, as much as we keep being
> transparent on this - which I recognise to be your point and your
> motivation beneath your email, so don't worry about it. ;)
> I hope I helped you in wrapping your head
about the whole thing. :)
> Luca "Sannita" Martinelli
> Wikidata mailing list