Wikipedia plans to charge large organizations using its encyclopedia

It's in talks to provide the commercial product to Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook.

Gary Cameron / reuters

Wikipedia is launching a paid-for service in an effort to charge big tech companies for access to its trove of information. While the encyclopedia is run by a non-profit that operates on donations, keeping the essential online resource free for general users, it is readying a commercial product for later this year, reports Wired. According to its sign-up page, Wikimedia Enterprise will provide paid developer tools and services to companies and organizations that consume and re-publish info from its database.

Currently, the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon use the same public data set that is available to general users to stock their search results and power their virtual assistants. But in the future, those that fork out for the enterprise tools will get a tailor-made data dump that offers real-time changes in a compatible format. Wikimedia Enterprise will also provide customer service, including a team of technical experts, and will work to strict project delivery times.

Talks are reportedly underway between the new Wikimedia LLC subsidiary and the big four tech giants and commercial agreements are expected to be reached as soon as June. The company has had its fair share of issues with big tech in the past, most notably when Google unsuccessfully tried to bypass it by launching a rival site, dubbed Knol, that paid contributors with a slice of ad money. Meanwhile, Wikipedia tried to take on the internet goliaths with its own doomed projects including a site designed to combat fake news and a social network.

A licensing agreement would essentially open up an new source of revenue for the Wikimedia Foundation, the San Francisco-based non-profit that runs the encyclopedia. The organization hit a fundraising peak in 2019 with revenues of just over $120 million, while its expenses amounted to more than $91 million. Wikipedia, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in January, overwhelmingly relies on the help of volunteers from the general public to help edit its site.