Wikipedia boss Jimmy Wales to create Facebook competitor?

At a gathering of about 100 of some of South Africa’s top geeks on Tuesday night, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales revealed what he said were some of the “first screenshots” of his new project on search.

But a screenshot that Wales briefly showed us looked very much like a Facebook profile page, than a search page. In fact it looked pretty much identical to a Facebook profile page.

Could this mean Wales is developing a social networking, Facebook competitor too? Could it be some kind of search/social networking hybrid?

[UPDATE: Terrence Russell of Wired woke up Jimmy Wales in the early hours of the morning in Bangkok to respond to the speculation. More here.]

Described as “Google’s worst nightmare”, Wales said the main “failing” of search engines out there like Google was that they were secretive about the way they ranked search results. In stark contrast to the Open Source movement, these search engines kept information about their algorithms and code close to their chest.

“It’s not a healthy thing that power is in the hands of a couple of companies… the information needs to be out there in the public and people involved,” he told the gathering in Johannesburg.

His angle is to take on the Googles of this world by making his new search project a collaborative one much like that of Wikipedia.

It’s the third time Wales has been to South Africa this year to talk about his projects and work with local communities.

Wales’ new projects are being created by a new company, Wikia. The company has been the subject of quite a bit of hype and speculation in recent times. Wikia is a separate organisation to Wikipedia and aims to take the wiki concept to every other kind of work, book, or community projects that people might build. It also aims to extend the Wikipedia model beyond just nonprofit, educational and research communities.

The event that Wales’ spoke at in Johannesburg was part of the new iCommons “Innovation Series” at which I also had the privilege of speaking at just before Wales. The next Innovation Series will feature the COO of Second Life, Cory Ondrejka. Congratulations to Heather Ford and Kerryn Mckay from Creative Commons South Africa who pulled this awesome event off.

More pictures of the Jimmy Wales event on my Flickr account, here.

South African languages still small on Wikipedia
Wales said the biggest South African language, excluding English, was Afrikaans with only 8 000 entries. The other South African languages were small with a mere 107 entries in Zulu or 78 posts in Xhosa.

    Wikipedia facts & stats, 2007

  • Wales said that by the end of 2007 there were now more than 2-million Wikipedia articles in english now, but that this is less than 1/3 of the wikipedia content.
  • German and French are two big growing languages with more than 500,000 articles each.
  • Wikipedia spent around US$1-millon last year, and will spend about $2,3-million this year. Most of this comes from small donations and is a tiny amount of money if you think of the influence Wikipedia has on the world.
  • Wales says that according to Alexa, Wikipedia is now the 8th most popular website in the world.
  • Even in countries like Iran, Wikipedia is the 14th most popular site.
  • Despite Wikipedia being one of the world’s top ten biggest websites, it only has 10 fulltime positions, with most of the work done by volunteers all around the world.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 South Africa License.

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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