Feeds

Microsoft Bing rehosts Wikifiddling as 'Reference' material

Wikihegemony extended

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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? ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Vodafone to buy 140 Phones 4u stores from stricken retailer
887 jobs 'preserved' in the process, says administrator PwC
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.