Economics of Wikipedia: The value of open content production

Aleksi Aaltonen and Stephan Seiler have an interesting piece.

What drives Wikipedia?

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Wikipedia are among the world’s most popular websites – and all of them are based on user-generated content. While some platforms of this kind are primarily used to share individually produced content, others are based on a more direct interaction between users in the production of content.

Wikipedia is the leading example of this type of joint production. The online encyclopaedia contains almost 4.4 million individual articles in the English-language version alone, which have been edited by more than 20 million users since its inception in 2001. Wikipedia has largely displaced the former market leader, Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is based on a more traditional process of content production (Devereux and Greenstein 2009).

Wikipedia (and open-source production more generally) constitutes a marked departure from traditional modes of production within organisations. Rather than using a fixed set of procedures to arrive at a pre-specified output goal, open source is characterised by commons-based peer production, a process that is “decentralized, collaborative, and non-proprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely distributed, loosely connected individuals” (Benkler 2006).

Despite a rising number of products and online platforms relying on this type of production process, we still have relatively little understanding of what drives the growth of content in such environments. Lessons from what makes Wikipedia successful can inform open-source projects and ‘wiki’-style platforms in a wide range of public and private sector organisations involved in research, education, and innovation.

The show how this open content production leads to large spillover effects leading to more people visiting and contributing as well..

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