Last September, Wikipedia received a $250,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to help fund its “Knowledge Engine” project, which, according to the Knight Foundation, aims to be a “system for discovering reliable and trustworthy information on the internet.” Due to the grant’s secretive nature, news outlets rushed to judgement and speculated this money would be spent building a search engine designed to ultimately rival Google. Newsweek published an article on the morning of February 16th that asserted this grant was to help fund the development of a “transparent search engine”, which prioritized user privacy and was devoid of advertising.
While this wouldn’t be Wikipedia’s first attempt to create its own search engine, as its founder tried and eventually failed back in 2009, the online encyclopedia claims it’s definitely not creating a search engine. In a post published on Wikimedia’s blog page, two company executives confirmed that the grant will be used for internal purposes only – not to build a “global crawler search engine”. Wikipedia plans to better understand the ways in which users find and discover its existing content. The company will use the grant to optimize its technologies to help gauge the behavior of its users to improve the user experience.
While a Wikipedia search engine may sound intriguing, unfortunately, it would likely fail – mainly due to its lack of capital in comparison to Alphabet, Inc.’s (Google’s parent company). For example, Google had the resources to pay Apple $1 billion to remain as the iPhone’s default search engine, despite the fact that they are in direct competition. Wikimedia posted $75.8 million in revenue in 2015, while Google earned $21.3 billion in revenue for Q4 alone.
Wikipedia began experiencing drops in traffic last Summer, which may have been as a result of Google beginning to favor other brands. However, for certain searches Google will still pull information from Wikipedia, and in turn, display it on the right side of its results pages. Thankfully, in the meantime it seems both Wikipedia and Google will continue to work together on Google Search to deliver the most accurate and relevant information.