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Wikipedia is one of the world's most popular websites and, in the eyes of some, was largely responsible for the demise of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The good news for publishers: the market for encyclopedias is relatively small, so Wikipedia's popularity has had a relatively limited commercial impact.

The bad news for players in the travel space: the Wikimedia Foundation's entry into online travel may have broader commercial implications.

As reported by Skift's Rafat Ali, the organization is preparing to launch a new travel site as early as next week. According to a goals document, the new site, dubbed Wikivoyage, will, amongst other things:

  • Serve as a resource for travelers looking for "lodging, transportation, food, nightlife, and other necessities."
  • Provide destination reviews, itineraries and reservation information.
  • Enable the creation of ad-hoc travel guides, "small fit-to-purpose travel books that match a particular itinerary."

Like its cousin Wikipedia, the intent is to run Wikivoyage as an entirely non-commercial endeavor.

The Wikimedia Foundation hopes that its site will contain information about and links to relevant commercial enterprises that serve travelers, such as hotels and restaurants, but does not want Wikivoyage to serve as an "advertising brochure" or "Yellow Pages."

Cause for concern?

Obviously, Wikivoyage won't be the only non-commercial travel resource on the web, but given the vast audience the Wikimedia Foundation has access to through Wikipedia, one has to assume that Wikivoyage could become a very popular resource in a relatively short period of time, especially if it's able to parlay some of Wikipedia's Google juice.

If Wikivoyage does take off, its non-commercial nature could make it a problem for commercial players in the online travel space.

From booking sites that earn commissions when they connect travelers and airlines, hotels and car rental companies to publishers that create and sell travel guides, a strong non-commercial travel destination that's rich in content and hard to market through (at least in a direct way) could create a less-than-desirable dynamic for commercial players in the market.

Putting Wikipedia's model, and clout, to the test

While the Wikimedia Foundation may be a formidable competitor, Wikivoyage could prove far less disruptive than it might seem destined to be. The Wikipedia model may be good enough for a virtual encyclopedia, but would it produce enough high-quality resources to earn the trust of travelers? Existing travel sites with user-generated content may remain more attractive to travelers until that question is answered.

Additionally, the Wikimedia Foundation's clout is somewhat questionable. According to a recent study, Wikipedia is losing editors and while that may be due, in some part, to a growing focus on improving the quality of content.

For Wikivoyage to succeed, it would seem that the organization will need to find a way to use the Wikipedia army in some fashion, something that may prove easier said than done.

Patricio Robles

Published 11 January, 2013 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2381 more posts from this author

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Barry Rutter, Digital Marketing Manager at Reed Exhibitions

I just can't see Wikipedia eating into Tripadvisor , which is so embedded and in many so incredibly powerful.

over 3 years ago

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David Riklin

Agree with Barry. As much as Wikipedia's franchise is so powerful and ell encompassing, it's barely monetised. Trying to expand into commercialisation is dangerous and will be jarring. Can't say I'm too worried.

over 3 years ago

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Linda Dorman

There's a huge difference between online travel information and travel services. Much of the content on the travel services sites is designed to support transactions (bookings) and is typically outdated, generic and too weak to be meaningful to experienced travellers. Since the offline (print, tv) market for high-quality travel information has significantly declined over the last 5 years, Wikivoyage has a real opportunity to fill the void. What they really need to avoid is becoming just another review site based on personal opinion/experience.

over 3 years ago

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Thomas Earl

I disagree with David and Barry. Wikivoyage isn't trying to compete with any existing commercial site. Instead, it's trying to give you better information, so you can make more informed decisions, then go ahead and book through your normal site.

As Linda points out, most existing services are geared toward attracting bookings. In some cases, there's no information about the city, only the hotels within it. Wikivoyage has the potential to help people like me decide where to go, like an online all-encompassing Lonely Planet book.

over 3 years ago

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Arcimboldini

Let's keep in mind that wikivoyager is hardly a new site. It's just a page-for-page copy of Wikitravel.org, which has been online for 10 years and has 80,000 pages in English and other foreign language versions. Presenting this as "new" may be what wikimedia wants, but it's hardly the truth. Please do research. Wikitravel.org reports over 250,000 visitors per day and nearly 100,000 registered users. Same content, a lot more contributors. Which site do you think is going to be more up to date?

over 3 years ago

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Miller

Which site do you think is going to be more up to date? Wikivoyage, because they have a huge number of users from Wikipedia, the sixth-largest site on the entire Internet. Wikipedia already has more detailed information about most cities than Wikivoyage would ever want... for instance, the one listing for the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC might actually have two encyclopedia articles - one about the hotel, one about a certain very famous 'phone number "PEnnsylvania 6-5000". Wikipedia also has the Wikimedia Commons, a huge collection of free images from which to draw on for every city. This is David vs. Goliath. I don't expect Wikitravel to last the year, especially if it's trying to hold on by adding more ads to pages and suing individual users. That's the pattern of a desperate and dying organisation.

over 3 years ago

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essayjazz

Nice Positng and is really very informative.looking forward for your next post.

over 3 years ago

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