Feeds

Microsoft Bing rehosts Wikifiddling as 'Reference' material

Wikihegemony extended

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Update: This story has been updated with comments from Microsoft.

We all know that Google's search engine likes to push Wikipedia links to the top of its results pages. But Microsoft has gone a step further.

With its new Bing decision engine search engine, Redmond is reproducing Wikipedia entries in their entirety, pulling content from "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit" and tossing it onto Bing pages labeled with a "Reference" tag.

Bing and Wikipedia

Wikibing

Microsoft is expected to point this out in a blog post sometime today or tomorrow. "There now is a Wikipedia 'Reference' vertical that can be accessed through Bing. Certain queries like 'squirrel monkey' for example will trigger a reference answer in the Table of Contents. Click 'Reference' in the left hand rail and you will be transported to best Wikipedia page for that query," reads a draft of the post.

But you're not actually transported to a Wikipedia page. You're transported to a reproduction of a Wikipedia page on Microsoft's own site, where it's labeled as "Reference" material.

In short, Redmond has tightened Wikipedia's hold on the minds of the world's web surfers. Uber-blogger Nicholas Carr has characterized the web, Google, and Wikipedia as an "information triumvirate" that transformed the net "from a radically heterogeneous information source to a radically homogeneous one." And Wikipedia's hegemony has now been extended, as it takes its place as the sole source of "Reference" information on another major web search engine - albeit it one with significantly smaller market share.

Google controls more than 60 per cent of the search market, Microsoft around 10.

According to according to Sam Ramji, Microsoft's senior director of platform strategy, Bing's Reference tab is the work of Powerset, the open-source-happy Semantic search outfit that Microsoft acquired last July.

A few months before the Microsoft acquisition, Powerset unveiled a semantic search engine just for Wikipedia content.

When you visit a rehosted Wikipedia entry, Ramji indicated to us, you can also perform a Powerset-powered semantic search. You can ask, say, "Was Albert Einstein married?" and Bing will attempt to answer this natural language question by searching a database of Wikipedia info. But at least for the moment, it isn't immediately obvious that such semantic searches are possible - i.e. the "Reference" pages don't tell you it's possible.

In reproducing Wikipedia articles, Microsoft gives the nod to a pair of content licenses. "All Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Document License or the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license or is otherwise used here in compliance with the Copyright Act," reads each Wikibing page.

Wikipedia content was originally licensed under the GNU Free Document License. Then, just last month, the Wikipedia Foundation - the not-for-profit behind Wikipedia - announced that all its projects will move their primary licensing to the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA). This is meant to make it easier for people to reuse Wikistuff, but the change hasn't officially been rolled out.

Microsoft doesn't appear to be editing Wikipedia pages and it's linking back to the GFDL license, so it would seem that Redmond is free to reproduce the content and even serve ads against it. "An inherent part of our license structure is that downstream commercial uses are allowed," one longtime Wikipedian tells The Reg. But the GFDL isn't easily navigated - even for the sharpest legal minds.

"I am aware of very few people who think the GFDL is a 'good' agreement," Santa Clara University law professor and tech law blogger Eric Goldman tells The Reg. "Very few people can understand the GFDL and apply it in a logical fashion." Microsoft says it does not have any sort of revenue-sharing agreement with the Wikimedia Foundation.

Regardless, Wikipedia's undoubted talent for information-pushing is on the rise. Microsoft's move only solidifies the notion that the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit" is an unbiased source of factual information.

Wikifiddlers often say that the site's ostensibly democratic model ensures that any mistakes are quickly corrected. But that's not always the case. And even if it were, isn't it worth asking how often Microsoft will refresh those "Reference" pages? ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.