This year marks the 20th anniversary of an internet phenomenon which rivals Google and Amazon as one of the foundations of the interconnected world.
Who among our ranks of keyboard citizens has not had recourse to the online collaborative encyclopaedia and hive mind of Wikipedia in the past two decades, whether it is to jog a memory, settle a bet, or simply as a jumping-off point for wider research?
Wikipedia was conceived as a not-for-profit enterprise by its founder Jimmy Wales, a complex character whose personal philosophy has been influenced by the writings of Ayn Rand, the 20th century Russian-American author and champion of laissez-faire capitalism and individualism. His own entry describes him as a gradualist who believes "that slow step-by-step change is better and more sustainable and allows us to test new things with a minimum of difficult disruption in society."
The impact of Wikipedia led many to believe that information has to be free while the reality is that someone must pay for its assembly and distribution. For many traditional media organisations this increasingly means subscription and paywalls for their digital platforms while others have placed their bets on advertising, targeted services, and regular appeals to the munificence of readers and supporters.
The moral being, therefore, that if you enjoy and value a service then you should pay for it, one way or the other, if you wish it to flourish. Otherwise Gresham’s Law will prevail, and the bad will drive out the good. We wish Wikipedia well as it faces the challenges of its next 10 years.