What’s Going On With Wikitravel?
For anyone that’s ever typed in the word “Travel” followed by a country’s name in Google, chances are you’re familiar with the site Wikitravel. The reason? It seems that for just about every Google search involving travel, Wikitravel comes up as one of the top three results. (Try it: Travel India, Travel Argentina, Travel South Sudan.)
What you may not realize is that Wikitravel has nothing to do with Wikipedia, and its current owners would like it to stay that way. A little background . . .
As the “About” page of Wikitravel recounts, the site was founded back in 2003 by Evan and Michele Prodromou. Three years later, Internet Brands, Inc. bought the site for a reported $1.7 million, netting a nice return on investment for the infant site. However, if you thought forking over a couple million dollars would buy you much, think again. In a quirky arrangement likely brought about as a result of the site’s user-generated content, the acquisition did not cover the actual content of the site. As the New York Times reported, “the articles are governed by a Creative Commons license, which means they can be copied and republished by anyone as long as a mention is included of where the material came from.”
Cue present day, and the Wikimedia Foundation (which oversees Wikipedia) in early September voted to launch their own travel wiki project. To help get things started, they’ve decided to “seed” their project with the thousands of entries currently populating Wikitravel, much to the chagrin of Internet Brands. Negotiations involving edible arrangements and shared tobacco pipes failed, and like any good dispute, the matter has ended up in court, specifically the Superior Court of California for Los Angeles County, with Internet Brands seeking to block Wikitravel volunteers Dr. Heilman and Ryan Holliday from actively encouraging other volunteers to take their content to the new wiki site. Holliday counter-sued in Federal Court, and a hearing is set for November 5 to determine the suit’s viability.
Given the status of Wikipedia and the explosive growth of user-generated content that has been the backbone of the Web 2.0 movement, it’s doubtless that countless site owners and legal advocates will be eagerly awaiting the court’s decision to determine how legal precedent will be set going forward with sites utilizing the public’s freely provided information.
I will also be awaiting this decision with bated breath to help determine the viability of my very for-profit ad-based internet venture involving a subscription-based Arrested Development wiki site culled entirely from Wikia’s site. I am going to call it either WikiBananaStand or TheWikiCornBaller.
Posted on October 09, 2012 by Matt Stabile