Google pays the Wikimedia Foundation to provide the most accurate and current information on its search engine. The Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit behind Wikipedia, says Google is one of the first companies to buy its commercial Enterprise service.
Wikimedia Enterprise was launched last year and allows customers (such as Google) who reuse massive amounts of information from Wikimedia services to access its content more efficiently. Rather than relying on free data dumps and publicly available APIs (application programming interfaces) to scrape information from Wikipedia’s web pages, Wikimedia Enterprise lets customers use APIs better suited to recycling and spitting out information on a much larger scale. The service also allows customers to get updates for the content it uses, to prevent outdated or inaccurate information from appearing on the web outside of Wikipedia.
Although you may not notice it, Google uses Wikimedia’s services in a number of ways. The most obvious is within the “knowledge panels,” which appear on the side of search results pages when you look up the people, places, or things in Google’s vast database. Wikipedia is one of the sources that Google often uses to populate the information in these panels. Google also cites Wikipedia in the information panels it adds to some YouTube videos to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories (although it didn’t really inform Wikimedia of its plans to do this ahead of time).
It’s not clear exactly how Google’s new partnership will change the end-user side. Tim Palmer, the director of Google’s search partnerships, vaguely noted that Google is looking forward to “deepening” its partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation through its Enterprise service. Lane Becker, Wikimedia Enterprise’s senior director of earnings, said: The edge that the service is still in its “beginning time” and declined to comment on specific ways Google might use it.
I imagine Google users probably won’t notice a change at all – maybe we’ll see Wikipedia cited more often in knowledge panels or maybe Google will come up with a new way to integrate Wikipedia’s information into its services. Google has made donations to the Wikimedia Foundation in the past, but this is the first time it has signed up as a real customer.
Aside from Google, the Wikimedia Foundation has announced that the Internet Archive has also become an Enterprise customer (although it does not pay for the service). That’s the same nonprofit that runs the Wayback Machine, a database that stores snapshots of websites over time so you can glimpse deleted or changed information and explore old-fashioned web layouts.
While the Wikimedia Foundation will of course get some money from running Enterprise, the organization expects its service to make up only “a small fraction” of its revenue.
Update June 22, 4:24 PM ET: Updated to add a statement from a Wikimedia spokesperson and to clarify that the Internet Archive does not pay for Enterprise.