Emerging markets help push Wikipedia past 3bn monthly mobile users

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Wikimedia London Office

Wikipedia has passed three-billion monthly mobile page views for the first time in its history, driven largely by growth in emerging market countries.

The crowd-sourced encyclopedia, which has become the go-to repository for all our information needs, reports that 14.5% of its page views are now via mobile. That represents a 4.6% increase from a year ago and a massive leap from the 500-million or so mobile page views it was getting just two years ago.

Mobile is also where Wikipedia has seen the most growth among non-English speaking users. A couple of years ago, 71% of Wikipedia’s mobile users were searching the site in English. Now nearly half are searching it in non-English languages.

Wikipedia user numbers

A key factor in this mobile growth has undoubtedly been the introduction of Wikipedia Zero, which has seen the organisation partner with a number of mobile operators to provide free mobile access to Wikipedia in a number of emerging market countries.

Wikimedia’s Amit Kapoor acknowledged as much in a blog post celebrating the landmark:

Wikipedia Zero, with a current reach of 330 million mobile subscribers, drives awareness of Wikipedia in mobile-centric developing countries and eliminates the cost barrier to accessing it. Finally, plans are underway to pilot ways to read Wikipedia by text message, and we’re looking at additional app platforms as well. Of course, new mobile readers today become potential new contributors tomorrow, so each of our mobile efforts are part of a virtuous circle of free knowledge.

He also outlined some of the challenges Wikipedia faces as grows into an increasingly mobile tool:

The question is no longer about why mobile matters, but instead how to manage it. It raises two challenges for Wikimedia — contribution and distribution. Editing Wikipedia has traditionally happened with a keyboard and monitor, but now smaller screens and touch interfaces are critical to figure out. Similarly, mobile contributions are likely to be more dependent on the context of the user — where they are, what they are doing, and how much time they have. With each of these questions, though, also comes immense opportunity to experiment with new editing behaviors like photo upload and micro-contributions. The product team at WMF is tirelessly working on these experiments, with significant headway already made in photo contributions.

The second challenge of the new mobile landscape is how to distribute Wikipedia. In a purely desktop world, many people discovered Wikipedia through search engines, and high rankings on search results provided credibility and brand equity for the site. With mobile, though, sessions originate in a more diverse fashion, be it through apps, bookmarks, or even the ‘old-fashioned’ method of direct domain access to familiar sites. Our official Android and iOS apps cover a lot of this territory, and we see around 40,000 device installs per day on Google Play and approximately 10,000 through the Apple App Store.

Image: Dmgultekin (via Wikimedia)

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