Online encyclopedia Wikipedia, is targeting to reach a billion users by 2015, and it plans to achieve this by using mobile phones, Jay Walsh, senior director of communications at the Wikimedia Foundation told AFP in Tokyo. In doing so, it would have doubled the present number. Walsh revealed that the quick spread of cellular networks across the developing world was proving to be conducive to such growth, 'even as it robs the site of potential editors'. He noted that to be able to reach out to people in faraway places in the world, where computers are not easy to find, a 'pared down, text-only version of the collaborative online encyclopaedia' would be required.
He added, “It's surprisingly challenging to take your website and make it available on the simplest phone. In areas like the Middle East, opening your phone and accessing a project like Wikipedia could cost you the equivalent of the couple of US dollars, which is a serious amount of money in those countries. We're trying to eliminate that barrier so people don't have to think about that,” he said, adding the site's global audience stood at around 483 million.”
Using a new medium to reach out
Interestingly, Walsh even revealed that tie-ups with telecom providers like France-based Orange and VimpelCom of the Netherlands were boosting this expansion. They are inking deals, implying that data charges would reduce for users on the site. All this is a part of their initiative called Wikipedia Zero.
Shedding light on yet another dimension, Walsh added that the number of active editors on the English language site has been dwindling. In 2007, they stood at 50,000, and the number has been falling since and are now at 33,000. Active editors are those who edit a page at least five times each month. Hopes are pinned on Wikipedia Zero that is being looked at as a way to 'rebalance the editorial brain drain'. It is being expected to reach out to markets where the local versions of the site 'remain in the start-up phase'. Walsh however, added that the mobile phone as a tool for editing was 'a big hurdle.' He added, “Our main focus is on the technological infrastructure to make it easy for this to work. It's about big ideas, bringing about change and making the world a better place.”
In November last year, Wikipedia, and its sister sites got a new video player. With a new video player, the content on the online encyclopaedia will only grow richer, thereby making educational videos available to more people, in more languages and of course, for free.
Guillaume Paumier, Technical communications manager, shared that the new video player was the same HTML 5 player used in the Kaltura open-source video platform. The video player had been integrated with MediaWiki and the software ran Wikimedia sites such as Wikipedia through an extension called TimedMediaHandler. In essence, the new video player replaces an older Ogg-only player that has been in use since 2007.
As for the new video player, it supports closed captions in multiple languages. The new video player is based on HTML 5, and it plays audio and video files on wiki pages. Among other things, the new video player brings to the table features such as advanced support for closed captions and other timed text. The new video player allows contributors to transcribe videos; it is being considered to be a significant step towards accessibility for hearing-impaired Wikipedia readers. Even captions can easily be translated into many languages, creating more room for the potential audience.