Saturday, July 4, 2020¶
About the Wikimedia Foundation¶
Should the Wikimedia Foundation change its name to “Wikipedia Foundation”?
I was quite surprised to learn that many people have obviously been investing considerable time and energy in a proposal to rename “Wikimedia Foundation” to “Wikipedia Foundation”. The main reason seems to be that normal people have difficulties with differentiating these concepts. For me it has always been quite clear and easy to understand that Wikimedia is the infrastructure behind Wikipedia (their most known project) and its sister projects Wiktionary, WikiData, WikiCommons, WikiNews, WikiTravel etc. Where “infrastructure” means software, hardware, adminstration, legal responsibility.
I read A Wikimedia brand strategy proposal for 2030. An interesting document, full of great formulations about why Wikipedia (oops, Wikimedia) is so cool.
Starting at page 26 it gives a reasonable argumentation for the suggested name change:
“You are doing amazing things, but it’s hard to tell from the outside” (Complicated, Disjointed, Not showing all the great things we do)
We risk losing mindshare to more polished players with simpler entry points (Google, Facebook, Youtube)
Wikimedia is unknown/unclear to those outside our walls.
Wikipedia is one of the best known projects in the world.
There is a strong center of gravity around Wikipedia in terms of readers (Wikipedia 15.2 billion, Wiktionary (next follower) only 162 million) and editors (similar numbers).
Wikidata holds strong potential for the future. Influencing beyond Wikimedia into other knowledge platforms. Free data beyond Wikimedia (no attribution needed), with the potential to drive innovation in AI.
Our current brand architecture does not serve us well. We are Wiki-m-edia, people know us for Wiki-p-edia, we want to talk about more than Wiki-p-edia.
Let’s shorten the distance by skipping the name Wiki-m-edia.
Achieving the same global brand awareness as Wikipedia would require a marketing spend in the range of billions of dollars.
Starting at page 53 the document continues with an impressive collection of promotion slogans about the whole vision. And indeed none of these slogans applies specifically to Wikipedia, it’s always about the “whole vision”, i.e. about the WMF. But everything sounds “normal” under the name “Wikipedia”.
Mental exercise: read pages 53-81 and replace every occurrence of “Wikipedia” by “Wikimedia”. How does that sound?
I then found the RFC entitled Should the Foundation call itself Wikipedia. The main question is: Is it acceptable for the Foundation to use the name Wikipedia to refer to itself?
My favourite comment is from Schazjmd: You can’t fix the finding that “Wikimedia is less understood” by using a name that is well understood to be something else.
When I read the document, there were 45 supporting comments versus 517 opposing comments. I added comment number 518:
Strong oppose. We have a vision named X and products named x1, x2, x3 etc., and we observe that name x1 is more popular than name X. What devil drives you to believe that removing X would make things more clear or would bring the popularity of product x1 to vision X!? The current naming reflects things correctly, the proposed change would bring confusion. We must not change our names, we must enforce others to use them properly. For example when Google search shows an infobox with a summary about some concept, they say “Data from Wikipedia”, but legally they should say “Data from Wikimedia”).
Of course: refusing a particular suggestion of a solution for a problem does not fix the problem. So I can’t stop here.
AFAICS the problem is not yet accurately formulated. One part of the problem is that we say “WMF” when we might as well say “Wikimedia”. “WMF” should be reserved for internal use. The brand name should be “Wikimedia”. I admit that when I think or talk about the whole vision, I always use “Wikipedia” (not “Wikimedia”). The name “Wikpedia” is being used erroneously for the whole vision.
Languages have similar problems when certain words change their meaning over time. That’s why we have language reforms. Each language reform causes a lot of energy and costs. Refusing to acknowledge a shift in the meaning of a word would be swimming against the flow. But words are not names. It would be absurd to say “Let’s rename Charles Darwin because the man Darwin has almost nothing to do with Darwinism”.
Another aspect of the problem is: We are facing an unbalanced growth of one of our products. That’s a temptation –but not a valid reason– to change our name. Imagine that Microsoft corporation would change their name to “Windows corporation” because the name “Windows” is more known than “Office”, “Skype” or “Xbox”!