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Before the Wikimedia Foundation was established as the organizational carrier for Wikipedia and its sister projects, the Wikipedia trademark as well as the server infrastructure had been owned by the start-up company bomis.com, which ran an ad-funded search engine mainly targeting a male audience. Wikimedia was founded over two years after Wikipeda and only after a substantial part of the Spanish Wikipedia community had started a Wikipedia-fork named “Enciclopedia Libre Universal” to prevent Bomis from including advertisments in Wikipedia. Bomis then handed on all Wikipedia-related intellectual property to Wikimedia.

In projects using open or free licensing standards such as Wikipedia (Creative Commons By-Share-Alike license) or Linux (Gnu General Public License)  a “fork” is always a (mostly: latent) option. In a way, the mere possibility of a fork should secure that an organizational carrier is attentive to the needs and positions of the community, whose contributions the project depends on. Of course, forking is also a way to resolve conflicts within communities, for example between sub-communities with different priorieties as the case of BSD Unix.

In the case of Wikimedia, choosing the organizational form of a non-profit foundatiofn allowed for community participation and tax-exempt donations (see “The Importance of Clear Boundaries for Community Participation“); but most of all it was a signal to the community of volunteer contributors that their content will not be exploited by a private enterprise. It is all about trust. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
September 2010
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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.