Google pays the Wikimedia Foundation to provide the most accurate and current information on its search engine. The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, says Google is one of the first companies to buy into his commercial Enterprise service†
Launched last year, Wikimedia Enterprise allows customers (such as Google) that 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 The service also allows customers to get updates for the content it uses, to prevent outdated or inaccurate information from appearing on the web outside of Wikipedia.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 within Google’s huge 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. I imagine 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 logs in as a real client.
In addition to Google, the Wikimedia Foundation has announced that the Internet Archive has also become an Enterprise customer. 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 obviously get some money from its partnerships with Google and the Internet Archive, the organization expects its Enterprise service to make up only “a small fraction” of its revenue.