[Foundation-l] Rethinking brands

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Tue May 8 00:40:12 UTC 2007

(Part of a "Rethinking" series.)

The Wikimedia Foundation currently owns and protects the following brand names:

* Wikipedia
* Wikimedia
* MediaWiki
* Wikisource
* Wikibooks
* Wikiquote
* Wiktionary
* Wikimedia Commons
* Wikispecies
* Wikinews
* Wikiversity

Of these 11 names, three are confusingly similar: Wikipedia,
Wikimedia, and MediaWiki. Moreover, only one has global recognition:
Wikipedia. MediaWiki has strong recognition as a software solution and
can therefore largely excepted from the following discussion.

Proper protection of these brands involves trademark and domain name
registrations and maintenance, and enforcement against misuse or use
of confusingly similar names. This is complicated by the fact that the
names are frequently used in internationalized variants.

Moreover, not a single Wikimedia content project is close to the
success of Wikipedia itself. Comparing the Alexa traffic rankings,
only one of the other domain names used is even in the top #1000
(wikimedia.org), and that is largely because this domain name is
accessed frequently, but indirectly, through Wikipedia itself
(uploaded files). This is in spite of the significant attention given
to these projects by featuring them on frontpages of most Wikipedias.

There is an alternative brand strategy: making use of the strongest
brand (Wikipedia) to identify all activities of the Foundation. In
such a model, there would be:

* Wikipedia Foundation
* Wikipedia
* MediaWiki
* Wikipedia Sources
* Wikipedia Textbooks
* Wikipedia Quotes
* Wikipedia Dictionary
* Wikipedia Commons
* Wikipedia Species
* Wikipedia News
* Wikipedia Learning

(The name "Wikipedia Learning" may be a good alternative to
"Wikiversity", which identifies the project less closely with a
particular institutional type of learning and research, and more
closely with its core activity.)

Once rebranded, the projects could also be featured in different ways.
For instance, a list of projects could be shown in a navigation bar at
the top of every page:

: Other Wikipedia Projects: Sources | Textbooks | Quotes | Dictionary
| Media | Species | News | Learning

At least some of the existing logos could be re-used in smaller
versions, positioned under the Wikipedia logo, when identifying the

== Advantages ==

* No more confusion between Wikipedia and Wikimedia, Wikimedia and MediaWiki.
* Strength of Wikipedia brand directly reflects on other activities.
* Encourages thinking of new projects in terms of their function
* As long as the core trademark (Wikipedia) is sufficiently protected,
so are all compounds
* Acknowledges that the "Wikipedia" brand stands for more than any
traditional encyclopedia
* Simplifies management and marketing/outreach, in particular,
collaborations with other projects-- no more "Wikinews is a project of
the Wikimedia Foundation, which also operates Wikipedia" type
* Reduces confusion with other "Wiki" entities, such as Wikitravel
* If all projects use the .wikipedia.org domain name, retaining
session information across wikis (after SUL) gets a lot easier (cf.
* Recognition of Wikipedia as flagship removes some of the media
pressure that every new project has to immediately (or ever) be just
as successful, which may very well be completely unrealistic.
* Discourages tribal thinking about projects, where even highly
experienced Wiki[mp]edians are treated with as much suspicion as any
newbie when they join another Wiki-* project.

== Risks ==

* Community acceptance. Perhaps this issue should be voted upon if
there is at least some support for it.
* Internal use will require some adjustment (many pages affected). The
frequent use of templates to identify related content should make this
process easier. Phasing this in gradually should be fine.
* Loss of visual identity. Again, this could at least partially be
addressed by having small visual identifications under the Wikipedia
logo for the different activities.
* Initial confusion among those who have finally learned the
differences between the names. :-) This is part of every rebranding

== Other perceived risks ==

* People would not contribute as much anymore. => I see no evidence to
support such an allegation, anymore than, say, people are contributing
less to Wikia.com's wikis because they are all unified under a single
brand identity. I am convinced that some people would quit over such a
decision, as some people will always quit (or threaten to) over
anything that is remotely controversial. I doubt that this would have
a significant long term impact.
* Some people do not identify with Wikipedia's values. => The kind of
people who join another project because they hate Wikipedia are not
necessarily the kind of people who build healthy communities. If even
the mere association with the Wikipedia name would give them a
headache, they are not part of a Wikimedia community to begin with.
* There is no such thing as a Wikimedia community. We must recognize
that each small community has its own values and principles, and avoid
empire-building. => A healthy dynamic between global and local values
is key; describing and spreading the minimal (but important) global
values that we have is a core reason we have a WMF and a chapter
network in the first place. We already recognize all projects as part
of the "Wikimedia" family; changing the brand to "Wikipedia" would
merely reduce the confusion.
* This will crush small projects under the juggernaut of the evil
Wikipedia and divert even more attention from them. => There is no
basis for such assumptions; indeed, it is quite reasonable to suppose
that identification with the strong "Wikipedia" brand will make it
_easier_ to resolve the particular technical needs of Wikipedia News,
Wikipedia Sources, etc. Raising money and developing partnerships for
Wikipedia is relatively easy, compared with a project hardly anybody
has ever heard of.
* But we spent so much effort telling people about our "Wiki-"thing,
all this will now be for nothing! => Not at all. Indeed, rebranding
exercises are usually an excellent opportunity to _raise_ awareness of
a project. "Wikiversity is now Wikipedia Learning!" "Huh, there was a
Wikiversity? And it's got something to do with Wikipedia?"
* What if one of the projects eventually gets bigger than Wikipedia?
Won't we look silly? => Talk about problems that are nice to have. No,
we won't look silly, because awareness about the project will, from
the beginning, be tied to an existing, well known brand name. Would
Google look silly if Google Mail became more popular than their search

I'd appreciate other critical commentary on this brand model. Frankly,
I see very few benefits in the strategy we have chosen to adopt
(perhaps more as a habit than as a result of careful deliberation).
Peace & Love,

DISCLAIMER: This message does not represent an official position of
the Wikimedia Foundation or its Board of Trustees.

"An old, rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open,
free and exciting is waking up." -- Ming the Mechanic

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