Some further thoughts on this thread while we wait for Adele to come back
According to Statista, the worldwide market for virtual digital
assistants is expected to grow from $1.64 billion in 2015 to $15.79 billion
by 2021. That's a tenfold increase over six years. Digital assistants will
reportedly outnumber people by 2021.
The Foundation has long been worried about the shift to mobile, the related
decline in desktop page views, and its effect on donations. But doesn't the
growing popularity of digital assistants – all of them, ironically, drawing
to varying degrees on Wikimedia projects – represent a much greater threat
to Wikipedia page views in the medium to long term than mobile?
At some point, I fear, opening a browser window on your computer or phone,
typing in a search term, and opening up a Wikipedia page will to many
people and in many contexts seem quaint and old-fashioned. Or to be more
precise, it won't even seem quaint and old-fashioned: people will gradually
stop doing it, and forget they ever did it, just like it's become rare for
most of us to get up, walk to a bookcase, and look up a term in a book,
because Googling is faster and more convenient. What will happen to
Wikipedia page views then?
In my view, the decision taken many years ago to make Wikimedia content
freely available to all re-users, even those earning billions of dollars
from it, was a gigantic mistake. It sold contributors, who work for
nothing, out. There should have been a (high) profit threshold above which
re-users should have been required to pay a percentage of their profits
back into the Wikimedia movement's pot.
But given that that bridge was burnt long ago – irretrievably so, it seems
– shouldn't the Foundation now, at the very least, do its utmost to make
sure that the minimal rights volunteers retain over the content they
contribute to their projects are respected? (Wikidata's CC-0 licence was
another huge mis-step in my view, as it reduces Wikimedia's visibility to
nothing, just as it is reduced to nothing in the Amazon Echo examples
described in this thread.) Otherwise, aren't we running the risk that
Wikipedia may well be as healthy in a couple of decades' time as DMOZ is
And, bearing in mind the projected growth of the virtual digital assistant
market, shouldn't the Wikimedia Foundation look at developing and marketing
its own Wikipedia-based virtual digital assistant, to at least earn a share
of the income its volunteers' work will generate in the years to come?
Won't volunteers otherwise just continue to be fodder to make Apple,
Microsoft, Google, Amazon etc. even richer than they already are?