Lack of facts no hindrance to speculation about Google, Wikipedia

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"Google Inc. has made a proposal to host some of the content of the Wikimedia projects." This small sentence has launched a thousand rumours, and not just in the blogosphere and on Slashdot, but in BusinessWeek and on ABC News as well.

The offer, as described on the unofficial announcement on Wikimedia's site, is less exciting than the speculation, however. The page simply says the board is discussing the offer, which does not require advertising, and plans to meet with Google via IRC in March.

For Google, flush with US$52 billion capitalization since its IPO in August 2004, an offer to host some Wikimedia Foundation content is a small expense. For Wikimedia, a non-profit with a bandwidth appetite doubling every four months, prowling for funds is constant.

The offer was met with howls of varying sorts, depending on where they emanated from online and business circles. John Dvorak seems opposed to any such deal, and his views have traction online, judging by comments on Slashdot after a link to his column appeared there.

Equally speculative calls from the other direction say Google and Wikipedia are destined to join forces. Unnamed analysts quoted on TechWack (and re-quoted on called it a response to Microsoft's re-entry, newly powered with its Encarta content, into the search engine market.

Blogs linked Google stock deals with the rumours of a hosting deal - and with the valuable commodity of social responsibility. The howls from within Wikipedia's community run the gamut of hopes and fears as well.

That such limited facts can raise the passions of the online and the business communities to such a pitch should impress both Google and Wikipedia with their status on the internet.