On Friday 16 February 2018 the Wikimedia Foundation announced that free access to Wikipedia will end in 2018, which was part of the Wikipedia Zero partnership programme.
There are Wikipedia sites in 300 different languages, with 46 million articles accessed by 1.4 billion unique devices every single month. An army of 200,000 editors and contributors patrol this repository of online knowledge every day.
In a statement on its website the foundation said, “After careful evaluation, the Wikimedia Foundation has decided to discontinue one of its partnership approaches, the Wikipedia Zero program. Wikipedia Zero was created in 2012 to address one barrier to participating in Wikipedia globally: high mobile data costs. Through the program, we partnered with mobile operators to waive mobile data fees for their customers to freely access Wikipedia on mobile devices. Over the course of this year, no additional Wikipedia Zero partnerships will be formed, and the remaining partnerships with mobile operators will expire.”
According to research by the Alliance for Affordable Internet coalition from last November, countries in Africa saw the greatest drop in data charges between 2015 and 2016 – though the price still remains the highest in the world when considered as a percentage of average income. The company believes that this is due, in part, to the rapidly shifting mobile industry, as well as changes in mobile data costs.
It’s also worth noting that Wikipedia’s service may not be scalable across the globe, as regulators in some ocuntries frown upon zero-rated services that subsidize the cost of access to subscribers, as it has the potential to grant companies an advantage over their competition.
The programme in its six years partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges.
Although Wikipedia Zero is shutting down, the outlet says it will be exploring new ways to make its service available to as many people as possible.
“To create all the world’s knowledge, we need participation from the world. However, we know that there are many barriers to making this vision a reality, data affordability being just one,” the blog post reads.
“We look forward to continuing to explore, evaluate, and measure the impact of our partnership opportunities and more as we build for the future of Wikimedia.”