Wiki Boss Slams Apple App Threat To Web Openness

Wales blasted Apple’s stranglehold on its apps market as the biggest threat to diversity and openness on the net

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales sees Apple apps as being a more immediate threat to the diversity and openness of the Internet than net neutrality issues.

He told a UK audience at Bristol University: “If you want to get paranoid about the threats to the open nature of the Internet, the bit about net neutrality doesn’t strike me as being where the action is taking place right now – where the action is taking place is in the development of the apps model.”

‘Apple apps model is very dangerous’

Wales illustrated what he sees as being the danger in this by using the example of his daughter who is learning to program but: “to actually just distribute [a program] for free… you have to get permission from Apple. And, so, that choke point that we have in the Apple apps model is very dangerous and something I’m concerned about,” he said. “It’s not theoretical like a network operator potentially shutting out Skype, it’s real and it’s happening now.

“If I own a device and you want to give me your software, we should not have to get permission from anyone else. We own the device and we should stay in control of it – and I think that is really, really important,” he added.

Wales was in the UK to promote Wikipedia as it approaches the celebration of its tenth anniversary tomorrow (January 15). His rail against Apple was a response to a question from the web-wide audience about net neutrality but much of his presentation was about the world of Wikipedia.

Editors too busy for Wikipedia?

There is a drop in the number of editors and contributors which Wales has been highlighting on the site. He said that this is a temporal thing and he has no doubt that numbers will increase with a little encouragement.

He said Wikipedia is hoping to recruit older academics who may be working with academics or specialists at museums and galleries. The younger academics are too busy building up their careers, Wales said, to have any time to spare for Wikipedia entries.

He also confirmed the single, knowledge-base focus of Wikipedia. “We could make Wikipedia even more popular than it is by offering webmail or social networking like Facebook. We are mission-driven and that mission is to provide free knowledge for everyone on the planet,” he said.

A few facts about Wikipedia now it is 10:

  • It has 3.5 million entries
  • It gets 408 million visitors per month
  • The editors’ average age is 26
  • 87 percent of the editors are male