Wikipedia turns 10, to open India office this year

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Jan 15, 2011

Happy Birthday WikipediaWikipedia, one of the most successful examples of crowdsourcing around, turned 10 today and the non-profit organization is now gearing up to expand its presence in developing nations.

Speaking at a meeting of users and contributors in Mumbai today, Barry Newstead, chief global development officer of the Wikimedia Foundation, outlined the organization’s targets for the coming decade and India seems to have a key role in the plans. An announcement made by Barry today will surely excite Indian Wiki enthusiasts – Wikipedia will soon be creating a ‘small’ team in India, though, it is still not clear what kind of people this team will comprise. Despite the ambiguity, this development definitely proves that India is a very important geography for the foundation.

“India is our fastest growing region in terms of readership. We have seen a growth of nearly 30% since Jan’10 and our aim is to reach 100 million unique visitors per month in India,” said Barry. Currently, India accounts for 1.5% of the global page views for the various properties run by the Foundation and about 1.3% of the global page edits.

Apart from the English edition of Wikipedia, the organization is also trying to encourage users to submit articles in other Indic languages. This is evident when you consider that one of the targets that has been set for India by 2015 is to have 120000+ articles in at least the top 10 Indic languages. At present, the largest number or articles for an Indic language are present in Hindi (which has around 650,000 articles); a very small number when you consider that the English edition has in excess of 3.5 million articles. Clearly, more efforts are required in this direction and it is counting on the large pool of contributors in India to start contributing in languages other than English.

Part of Wikimedia’s multi-pronged strategy is to invest in offline delivery mechanisms like phones, USB flash drives, dedicated devices like Wiki Reader (developed by OpenMoko and not available in India yet), as well as DVD’s and print publications. Interestingly, Newstead maintained that the Wikimedia foundation is not looking to cash in on any of these initiatives and these were purely partner driven.

The mobile platform is one area where Wikipedia definitely wants to improve. Said Barry, “Only 3% of our total page views are from mobile phones. One of my mandates is to improve our performance on this platform. We have been speaking with handset manufacturers like Nokia, to try and find a way to create a better user experience.” A limitation on the mobile is that users are not allowed to edit articles and Barry admits that this is something that needs to be rectified soon. The organization is also exploring how it can develop new applications for mobile devices, though nothing concrete has been decided yet.

The Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit group that has an annual revenue of $20 million and has 60 employees and deploys 450 servers. It is the 5th most visited site on the Internet. A remarkable achievement, if we consider, that Facebook, which is at number four, has revenues of around $600 million, 1200 employees, and more than 30,000 servers; but then Wikipedia does have the crowd behind it!

Meanwhile, as part of the birthday celebrations, Wikipedia is inviting users to put in their views in a time capsule and participate in other online activities .