[Wikimedia-l] Wikimedia mobile application development

Kul Wadhwa kwadhwa at wikimedia.org
Thu Apr 12 01:03:42 UTC 2012

Hi MZ,

I'm going to further address one of your questions below to shed a
little more light
on the relationship of mobile applications and carriers, and another
reason why we
need to have Wikipedia mobile apps.


> Okay, I think that's sensible. In my opinion, initiatives such as Wikipedia
> Zero are exactly the type of work that can only really be done at the
> Wikimedia Foundation-level and great progress has been made there that I
> don't think would have been possible with volunteers. And in a lot of ways,
> being able to host and maintain the mobile sites is something that only the
> Wikimedia Foundation is capable of doing. The mobile application development
> was the part that I saw as possibly being ripe for outside organizations,
> but as you explain below, that may not be the case for a variety of reasons.
>>> The idea behind free and open content is that the content can be taken and
>>> reused and redistributed by others without issue. That's part of the great
>>> beauty of Wikimedia wikis. With a vibrant app market for both Androids and
>>> iPhones, why is Wikimedia getting involved in mobile application
>>> development? Isn't this something best left to third parties (which, as I
>>> understand it, have already filled the "Wikipedia app" niche with a variety
>>> of options for both platforms) or interested volunteers?
>> No, its really not and we've heard from countless people that it
>> wasn't working. There are a number of reasons that my team was asked
>> to do mobile apps and i'll list some of them below
>> * Whenever we talk with carriers about partnering with us they want to
>> see a suite of products they can provide on our behalf. These can
>> range from a basic bookmarks on the mobile web, sms access, to a
>> listing our app within their own markets. Any one thing missing ends
>> the conversation pretty quickly. I suggest reading the original blog
>> post from January http://bit.ly/IFoti4 to gain more insite. Kul &
>> Amit can elaborate more on this.
> I'm a bit confused about the relationship between mobile applications and
> carriers. As I understand it, carriers in this context refers to cell phone
> service providers (Verizon, AT&T, et al.). The mobile applications are
> generally at a different layer (Apple's iTunes Store, Google's Android
> Market, etc.), aren't they? Is this strictly about pre-installed
> applications on devices sold through these carriers?
> I'd encourage anyone interested to read both the blog post _and_ the
> comments below it, where some of these same questions are asked (and
> answered!).

In regards to carriers, it's consistently been a requirement from them to
provide Wikipedia mobile apps for the following reasons: 1) marketing/awareness;
2) better user experience; and, 3) to provide a presence in their own
app stores.

1) As you pointed out, many of these carriers would like to
pre-install Wikipedia
apps on their phones and they require us to have these apps available for them.
They have a lot of control to determine what goes on the deck of Android
phones so that's better exposure for us. Furthermore,
they have told us that their data shows it's the preferred way
their customers access applications. I know it makes less sense for iOS
because Apple exclusively controls what's on the iPhone deck but, from
a marketing
perspective, it's easier for them to message "access to Wikipedia" if they
just identify an app in their marketing campaigns. I was in discussions with
another carrier this morning and they also emphasized the importance of
having an app in order to market Wikipedia Zero because they believe
their customers
may be hesitant to access Wikipedia directly via the mobile web. They
think their
average customer may be wary that it's not actually free, which may
deter them from using
the site if they feel that there is some chance they may be charged for data
usage. Some carriers claim that it's easier to message the Wikipedia
Zero experience
if the app is the clear gateway to it. We're obviously relying on the
insight we're getting
from our partners on this but we've been hearing the same thing from
many carriers on this.

2) In regards to user experience, there are some benefits to users in having
native functionality in a smart phone app but it's a more compelling
argument for feature phones.
Especially for low-end feature phones such as those that run on J2ME, the
in-browser experience is significantly worse than a native app
experience. This was
a common request made by carriers in developing countries where, in
some territories,
feature phone usage is still 50% to upwards of 80% of their user base.

3) Almost every carrier we've talked to have their own app stores:
Android, J2ME,
Bada, etc.. And although I'm not convinced it makes as much sense to
promote the
Wikipedia app in their Android store when most people go to Google's
Play Marketplace,
it's not an either/or proposition (we can do both) and carriers are
willing to put more
marketing dollars/power behind our apps if it's also available in
their stores. It's what
they want and if it help us reach more people that's an additional
benefit (not a
compelling enough reason on it's own though). However, some app marketplaces
run by carriers like those for J2ME (and Bada, although we're not
developing for that)
have significant downloads from their customers that rival the main app stores
(managed by Nokia and Samsung respectively) so we're definitely getting more
exposure to their customers by providing apps for feature phones as well.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


Kul Wadhwa
Head of Mobile
Wikimedia Foundation

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