Wikipedia Search Engine Costs Wikimedia Chief’s Job


The head of Wikimedia’s parent organization has resigned over plans to create a search engine. Contributors were upset about both the move itself and a lack of transparancy over the plans.

Lila Tretikov announced her departure as executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that oversees a range of websites, most notably Wikipedia. She had been in post for just under two years, during which she was credited with reversing a decline in the number of active volunteer editors.

The goodwill associated with that seems to have been hit by leaked plans for Wikimedia to build a “Wikipedia knowledge engine.” Although the organization responded by suggesting the idea was simply to rethink the internal search tool on Wikipedia, both the wording and numbers quoted in funding documents gave the impression the idea was to more explicitly compete with the likes of Google and to index material from outside the site. One explanation was that the goal was to build the largest search tool that had no commercial motives or influences whatsoever.

Not only were many Wikipedia editors upset at what they saw as an unwise attempt to change the organization’s focus, but the fact that plans had been developed without user consultation also rankled. The dispute appears to have become something of a proxy for the wider debate about how much Wikimedia should be run as an open transparent community and how much in the style of a major tech company with a traditional management structure.

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