On Tue, Mar 1, 2016 at 7:24 AM, Erik Moeller <eloquence(a)gmail.com> wrote:
Anne, I have
mentioned several times in the past few days here on this
Sue Gardner's 2008 email suggesting that the
WMF enter into an "umbrella
relationship/agreement" or "business deal" with Google. In case you
it, here is the link again:
Scroll to the very end of the document to see the email in question. I am
still interested in learning what the results of that effort were.
Nothing other than establishing some mutual points of contact, as far
as I know. [...]
Thanks for your replies, Erik, and this overview.
We did continue to cultivate the relationship with
continued to ask for support, and eventually Google made a one-time
$2M donation.  As you know, Google also was one of the early
supporters of Wikidata , and Sergey Brin's family foundation has
also given to WMF in the past.  This was all unambiguously good for
Wikimedia, and is all public knowledge.
The gift from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation is of a little bit of interest,
because its public announcement came a mere three days after the
Wikimedia Foundation said it would join Google and other Internet giants
in their protest against the proposed SOPA/PIPA legislation – whose
implementation would have cost those companies *a lot* of money.
Today, we take it for granted that the Wikimedia Foundation is politically
active. But at the time, in 2011, many editors accustomed to practising
NPOV in their writing still assumed that the Wikimedia Foundation, as an
institution, would and should practise the same neutrality.
It always seemed likely to me that the $500,000 Brin Wojcicki Foundation
gift was related to the Wikimedia Foundation's support, especially as
Wojcicki, along with Jimmy Wales, was also on the board of Creative
Commons, where these matters were also being discussed.
At the time, Google critic Scott Cleland wrote, "Google led,
orchestrated, politically-framed and set the political tone for much of the
Web’s opposition to pending anti-piracy legislation, SOPA/PIPA, because
rule of law and effective enforcement of property rights online represent a
clear and present danger to Google’s anti-property-rights mission, open
philosophy, business model, innovation approach, competitive strategy, and
It left a little bit of a sour taste, because the Wikimedia Foundation
seemed to me to have loaded the dice in its communications to the
community, painting the consequences of the proposed legislation in the
most garish and alarming colours – implying that users might become
criminally liable for posting fair-use materials on Wikipedia, that SOPA
threatened the survival of Wikipedia, etc. – in order to maximise community
support for the blackout.
WMF staffer Tim Starling later posted here on this list what seemed to me a
very cogent critique of some of the things the WMF did and didn't say to
This lobbying partnership with Google has continued in the years since
then, with Jimmy Wales more recently joining Google's Advisory Council
to campaign against European "right to be forgotten" legislation (another
law imposing cost burdens on Google).
One may agree with Google's political positions, for quite different and
independent reasons, but the fact that money changed hands to my mind
tainted the effort.
Beyond those donations, we've generally had an
with changing points of contact over the years. WMF has given tech
talks at Google, for example, or our point of contact might help us
get some passes for the I/O conference. Part of the mandate of the
partnerships hire WMF made last year was to bring more of a systematic
approach to these relationships, and as the org stabilizes it might be
good to seek a broad conversation as to what that ideally should look
like in terms of transparency, lines we shall not cross, etc.
Generally speaking, when WMF did enter into significant business
relationships, these are a matter of the public record in press
releases and such: Yahoo back in 2005, Kaltura, PediaPress, Orange,
the various WP Zero operators, some data center partners, etc. The
Apple dictionary integration Brion mentions in  is an exception to
the rule; contrary to Brion's recollection it actually predates even
Sue Gardner and, as far as I know, was not announced at the time.