Feeds

Google News serves up...Wikipedia links

Walesian prophecy fulfilled

High performance access to file storage

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales likes to discuss the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit" as some sort of breaking news source. And apparently, Google agrees with him.

As noticed by The New York Times, the world's largest search engine is now including Wikipedia links on Google News, billed as "a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from news sources worldwide."

Monday afternoon, for instance, the Google News home page pointed readers to Wikipedia articles on modern-day Iranian martyr Neda Soltani, the recent Taza bombing, Craigslist killer Philip Markoff, and the 2009 flu pandemic.

This would seem to be a permanent change. A company spokeswoman tells The Reg that it began as a test, with Wikipedia articles included on the news site for only a small percentage of users, and in Google's mind, the test went well.

"As with many features on Google News, these links were initially launched as an experiment," she says. "We've rolled out this feature to all English language editions of Google News. From our tests, we've seen that users searching for news find these pages to be helpful supplements to many stories, offering background and reference material on current events."

Google has already used Wikipedia to draw attention away from the mountains of Goobage clogging its main search engine, and in the process, it turned the anyone-can-edit site/online cult into perhaps the world's most dominant information source.

Now the search giant is playing into the hands of Jimbo Wales yet again, while making a mockery of the legitimate news sources it so recently vowed to protect.

It's no secret that in allowing anyone to edit its pages, Wikipedia has a certain knack for disseminating nonsense. In January, for instance, the day of President Obama's inauguration, longtime US Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd turned up dead in Wikiland - even though they were still among the living in our world.

But for Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner, this is all part of Wikipedia's role as a, well, news source.

In a recent interview, Gardner said that she was "quite comfortable" with mistakes on the site, and she sought to defend her argument by calling Wikipedia "just another mainstream news medium," echoing the words of Wales, Wikipedia self-described Spiritual Leader. "I know that more or less the same mistakes can be found in the New York Times," she said.

The difference, of course, is that The New York Times doesn't let any anonymous shut-in edit its pages, and barring a few exceptions, it doesn't allow the sort of info hoax that makes Wikiland such an amusing place to visit.

In the wake of the Byrd and Kennedy Wikinonsense, Jimbo ordered the site's IT staff to roll out a new Wikitool designed to suppress site "vandalism." With "Flagged Revisions," certain edits wouldn't be shown to the public unless they were approved by "trusted editors." He ruled out a complete lock-down on articles because that would kill the site's knack for, yes, news.

It's unclear why those anonymous volunteers should be trusted. But whether they can or not, the Flagged Revisions idea was put on hold. Many Wikifiddlers believe such a change would somehow undermine the site's commitment to the tenets of Web 2.0. They continue to discuss the idea in Wikiland, and it may be revived as early as August.

Part of the problem is that Wikipedia can't quite decide what it wants to be. Encyclopedia? News medium? Unfettered nonsense? But regardless, Google sees it as a trusted source of information. That's nothing new. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Nokia offers 'voluntary retirement' to 6,000+ Indian employees
India's 'predictability and stability' cited as mobe-maker's tax payment deadline nears
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Adrian Mole author Sue Townsend dies at 68
RIP Blighty's best-selling author of the 1980s
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Analysts: Bright future for smartphones, tablets, wearables
There's plenty of good money to be made if you stay out of the PC market
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.