Google is going to start paying for its use of Wikipedia information to help power its knowledge panels in Google Search. The search giant, along with the digital library the Internet Archive, are the first customers for the still relatively new commercial product launched by the Wikimedia Foundation -- the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia. Its new service, Wikimedia Enterprise, offers access to Wikimedia content to companies that reuse and source Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects at a high volume.
For years, Google has used information from Wikipedia to offer web searchers quick answers and basic facts through the use of what it called knowledge panels, first introduced in 2012. This feature pulls information from freely available online resources, including Wikipedia, Google Books and other sources. Other tech giants have also leveraged Wikipedia's information in their own products. Facebook, for example, in 2020 had tested Wikipedia-powered information panels similar to Google's. Apple today returns Wikipedia-powered results in its Spotlight Search feature.
Various tech companies large and small have also relied on Wikipedia data to enhance their own products and services.
The Wikimedia Enterprise service has been live for a year, servicing commercial customers on an opt-in basis. However, it hadn't announced its first customers until now. With Wikimedia Enterprise, customers of any size gain access to the service's offerings including customer support and Service Level Agreements at prices based on their volume of use, much like any other product aimed at businesses. There's also a self-serve free trial offering 10,000 on-demand requests and unlimited access to a 30-day Snapshot.
The organization says the product is now covering its current operating costs and has a growing list of users who are exploring its use. But it is not a requirement to use the commercial product, even if the customer accessing the data is large, like Google. All Wikimedia projects, including its suite of publicly available datasets, tools and APIs the Wikimedia Foundation offers will continue to be available for free use to all users, the foundation said in a June announcement.
As a result of their deal, Google and Wikimedia said they're working together to make the content sourcing process more efficient.
"Wikipedia is a unique and valuable resource, created freely for the world by its dedicated volunteer community," said Tim Palmer, managing director, Search Partnerships at Google. "We have long supported the Wikimedia Foundation in pursuit of our shared goals of expanding knowledge and information access for people everywhere. We look forward to deepening our partnership with Wikimedia Enterprise, further investing in the long-term sustainability of the foundation and the knowledge ecosystem it continues to build."
Meanwhile, the Internet Archive, which runs the digital archive known as the Wayback Machine, will leverage the commercial service as well to improve its own offerings.
"The Wikimedia Foundation and the Internet Archive are long-term partners in the mission to provide universal and free access to knowledge. By drawing from a real-time feed of newly added links and references in Wikipedia sites — in all its languages, we can now archive more of the web more quickly and reliably," said Mark Graham, director of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
The commercial product was a part of the Wikimedia Foundation's long-term strategy, which included recommendations involving advancing knowledge equity and knowledge as a service, it said.
Correction, 6/29/22, 5:36pm et: The Internet Archive will be leveraging the enterprise service but will not be a paying customer, we understand. We've updated to correct this.