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Wikimedia Foundation/Communications/Wikimedia brands/2030 research and planning/community review/results

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From February to May 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation Communications team collected community feedback on a proposal for the future of the Wikimedia brand system. The proposal included detailed research on current brand positioning, and recommended dropping the “Wikimedia” name to center the movement’s brand system on “Wikipedia” its strongest brand.

Sharing the full proposal was a critical step to understand community perspectives on the suggestions, and evaluate how/if further movement brand adjustments should be made. Here, you can find the results of this 4 month consultation.

Reach and Response[edit]

Consultation overview (*)
Affiliate discussion via email on Meta-Wiki
Reach 122 affiliates 14 mailing lists (9,066 registered subscribers) 9,078 page views of review talk page
Response 63 affiliates (52% rate) 38 unique responders 106 contributors
Positions 24 support, 6 oppose 7 support, 12 oppose 13 support, 45 oppose

(*) There were also 9,880 unique pageviews on the blog post announcing the proposal and consultation

World map with highlighted countries

Response KPIs[edit]

Goal KPI Results
Share widely with community Reach 80% of affiliates ✓ 82% of affiliates
Collect feedback from many perspectives 100+ comments from            

100+ users/groups

✓ 319+ comments

✓ 63 groups, 150+ users

Measure community appetite

for change

20% of affiliates support

Less than 20% of informed community oppose

More than 20% of informed community support

✓ 38% of reviewing affiliates support

✗ 40% of community members oppose (**)

✗ 14% of community members support (***)

(**) A previous version of these results reported that "0.6% of informed oppose (57 users oppose of ~9,000 reached)" This number was later acknowledged as being imprecise and causing confusion, as it used the 9,880 page views of the blog post, rather than the 144 responses received using the methods of response described in the methods of consultation and feedback sharing established in advance of this consultation.

(***) This KPI was missing from the initial version of this report.

Note: KPIs are based on the benchmarks established in planning for our consultation.

Themes in feedback[edit]

More than 319 individual comments were shared on the brand proposal. Some came as simple “+1” agreements, while other comments offered detailed notes on behalf of large community groups.

In reviewing the comments, the project team first separated topics between support and opposition to the proposal. We then realized that many of these positions were actually polarities around shared topics. Restructuring the feedback, we identified 6 key thematic feedback areas for assessing community perspectives on branding.

Themes at a glance (***)
Theme Summary of theme Popularity
Reduce confusion Movement names are closely related and cause confusion. Will changes resolve confusion or make things worse? ✎✎✎✎✎✎✎
Protect reputation Wikipedia has a range of reputations worldwide. Will change “hijack” good reputation? Will bad reputation limit trust in sister projects? ✎✎✎✎✎✎
Support the sister projects Current branding indicates a system of projects. How, explicitly, will using Wikipedia improve understanding/use of sister projects? ✎✎✎✎✎
Legal risks Current branding distinguishes movement from projects, protecting affiliates from potential legal risk for Wikipedia content. ✎✎✎✎
Support movement growth Branding should directly aid movement understanding, participation, and growth worldwide. ✎✎✎✎
Process of change Is it "too late" for change to Movement branding? Or is "now the time" to invite new volunteers with branding change? ✎✎

(***) Popularity is ranked based on the theme’s frequency in feedback. One pencil (✎) = mentioned once or twice. Seven pencils = mentioned in nearly all comments.    

Reducing confusion[edit]

Popularity of the theme: ✎✎✎✎✎✎✎

“the -pedia part of Wikipedia comes from encyclopedia, and is not appropriate for other projects, this would lead to confusion.”


“I think the distance should be shorter, when we speak to the public, partners, when we are looking for support because they don’t have time to listen to our story. They don’t care.”

--Wikimedia South Africa

“It’s important to distinguish between the community organizations and the projects. This is a constant problem.”

--Wikimedia Norway

“A brand that you have to explain every single time you use it is just useless. Yes, please get rid of the "Wikimedia" name altogether.”


“Right now, we take a lot of time to explain the difference between Wikimedia and Wikipedia and then people conclude that we are from Wikipedia. I think it will help us as a simple entry point.”

--Wikimedia Indonesia

“‘non-wiki-experienced’ people already think the Foundation and the national chapters have a role in defining/controlling the content of Wikipedia articles... [this change would] further enforce this bias.”

Reducing confusion analysis[edit]

The desire to distinguish who does what in the movement was the most frequent comment in the consultation. Volunteers are eager to reduce confusion about the Movement and to have a “simple” way to explain things accurately.

There is a tension between the acknowledgment that Wikimedia is a confusing name that the public never understands and a group of commenters who believe that Wikimedia’s confusion creates opportunity for informative dialog.

A further tension acknowledged was that changing the meaning of Wikipedia would itself create new confusions and this must be considered/managed in any change.

Protecting reputation[edit]

Popularity of the theme: ✎✎✎✎✎✎

“The reputation of Wikipedia [could be] exploited and diluted by misusing it for countless other projects which do not deserve this recognition and reputation.”


“Sharing reputations [...] has the potential to cause serious damage to all of Wikimedia's projects.”

--User:Yair rand

“[Wikipedia’s] brand is world-class and we should use it.”

--Wikimedia Bulgaria

“Wikisource in India is growing in a tremendous way and it will surpass Wikipedia in views and editing statistics. People trust it more than Wikipedia. If Wikisource gets branded as a Wikipedia project, that means people will have less trust in Wikisource.”

--Punjabi Wikimedians User Group

“This could be seen as "theft" of the Wikipedia brand.”

--Wikimedia Italia

“We're lucky enough to have the Wikipedia brand which is a billion dollar asset, it's a waste not to exploit it to the fullest extent.”


Protecting reputation analysis[edit]

There was no dispute that Wikipedia is a well-known, even “world class” brand. But there is tension between some volunteers who feel Wikipedia’s reputation is still connected to unreliable, untrustworthy content and those who see the reliability of Wikipedia content so “above” the sister projects that it cannot be shared.

Among those who believe Wikipedia has a strong reputation, there is a second polarity between those who see that reputation as an asset to be leveraged for the movement’s mission, and those who warn against “hijacking” the Wikipedia brand. In particular, voices wary of “brand theft” are particularly keen to not let the Foundation take the Wikipedia name, as they feel this will further the encyclopedia project’s sense of continued exploitation.

Supporting the sister projects[edit]

Popularity of the theme: ✎✎✎✎✎

“I see it as a real big chance for the sister projects, to participate much more from the well known name ‘Wikipedia’”

--User:Marcus Cyron

“The risk is that adopting "Wikipedia" as the unified brand could very well undermine our community spirit of coming together for solutions by, intentionally or not, blessing an entrenched approach above all others.”

--Andrew Lih

“People from sister projects may feel the change will devalue their projects.”

--Punjabi Wikimedians User Group

“‘Wikipedia’ brand is much stronger than the ‘Wikimedia’ brand; for example, it's very possible that this rebranding could invigorate other projects like Commons by increasing the public's association of them with Wikipedia.”


“We agree brand needs renovation. However, we are concerned about the fact that Wikipedia España doesn't feel accurate as a name for us. (In Spain we do have a diverse language community working with different versions of the Wikimedia projects.) If the WMF takes the decision of applying a new naming policy we would need support, resources and guidance.”

--Wikimedia Spain

“Presenting our group as something more than people who are experienced Wikipedia editors is very important to us, and anything that makes that message easier would be of huge benefit to us.”

--Wikimedia Community Ireland

“What if Wikipedia loses steam and Wikidata becomes the more recognised project 10 years from now?”


Supporting sister projects analysis[edit]

In its current format, the brand proposal offers little demonstrable evidence for how a central Wikipedia brand would empower the other projects. Many respondents noted this. Some could see the immediate benefit of shared branding as a way to share trust and association, while others felt certain that with Wikipedia in the top billing, other projects would be even less visible and differentiable.

There was little defense of Wikimedia as a branding system that successfully supported the sister projects. At best supporters said Wikimedia offered a chance to explain the name (and thus movement/sister projects OTHER than Wikipedia) and allowed a “spirit” of the Movement to be differentiated from a single project.

Most volunteers expressed interest in precisely how Wikipedia would be used to elevate the sister projects and asked to see/hear more about these approaches when/if they are drafted.

Legal risks[edit]

Popularity of the theme: ✎✎✎✎

“Legal issues will be more common if the name convention is changed from Wikimedia to Wikipedia, as you can be responsible (country law's depending) of what it is written on Wikipedia.”

--Galder Gonzalez

“When I apply for visas, people think Wikimedia is fake. They always ask: don't you mean Wikipedia?”

--Wikimedia Iran

“We were trying to support a visa application for a Wikimedian visiting us from Nepal. The embassy refused to give him the visa because they suspected that he works for a news outlet as the hosting organization has ‘-media’ in its name at a time of elections when they didn't want coverage of what's going on from unknown news outlets. WM BD - Pro”

--Wikimedia Bangladesh

“Speaking from a country without rule of law and where Wikipedia have been blocked by the government a few weeks ago, establish[ing] the difference between Wikipedia and Wikimedia is crucial for our work, and if these differences aren't crystal clear ... we could not only be facing legal threats, but a more dangerous environment for our volunteers.”


“Will WMF legal provide support everytime when needed to [aid] these affiliates and their members from prosecution?”


Legal risks analysis[edit]

Among critics of the branding proposal, legal risks to volunteers were often cited as a key deterrent to change. Community groups and individual contributors offered many examples of being confronted by governments/authorities for content on Wikipedia.

The obscurity and semantic differentiation of Wikimedia have been perceived aids to managing legal risk. How, respondents asked, can community groups USE the stature of Wikipedia as a brand while maintaining their distance from content authorship?

Other respondents did note that Wikipedia is an aid to legal situations, especially in applying for visas/traveling internationally. There, Wikipedia’s prominence allows government reviewers to increase trust in the traveler.  

Supporting movement growth[edit]

Popularity of the theme: ✎✎✎✎

“Given the longterm strategic goal of being a broad and deep knowledge ecostructure, I think a more generic name serves the movement better.”


“I think [changing to Wikipedia] will support diversity in the movement.”

--Wikimedia User Group Nigeria

“I feel that we have brand differentiation for the benefit of editors so that we can more efficiently develop this content. The brand differentiation is less useful for typical end users, who can do imagining everything as ‘Wikipedia’”

--User:Blue Rasberry

“Having a global name and differentiating between organisation and projects is, in my opinion, a very reasonable way to give distinct labels to (i) the movement, the foundation and the chapters and (ii) the individual and interconnected socio-technical systems ”


“I think the change will serve the public and make the movement and projects easier to understand.”

--Wikimedians of the Levant

“Wikimedia is not only Wikipedia. Is not just an encyclopedia, but all other wiki projects. And is also a movement for openness, a philosophy, a way to do things. Means collaborations, partners, a lot of other staffs than an encyclopedia doesn't include. ”

--Camelia Boban

Supporting movement growth analysis[edit]

For a Movement-wide branding change to be “worth it” there must be a clear impact to movement growth. Respondents debated whether generic “infrastructure” names would better serve the movement strategy than “repurposing” Wikipedia. Some argued that only by using Wikipedia as our invitation would the movement be relevant to new users/contributors/donors, especially in emerging markets. Many felt Wikipedia was indeed the tool to use, but acknowledged that its meaning would need to be considerably expanded and redefined.

A key observation was that the community “spirit” of Wikimedia, with its values of openness and collaboration, must be maintained at the center of our movement.  In addition, Wikipedia must be made more inviting as a brand and technology system if it is to truly signal and support movement growth.

The process of change[edit]

Popularity of the theme: ✎✎

“I find this branding proposal feels very dated; something that might have had currency several years ago, but not really an advantage in the coming 10-15 years. There aren't a lot of organizations that change their names to reflect their most prominent brand.”


“Updating projects would be great. We should have an identity that will last a long time. This will cost a lot but [it is] worth it to maintain our reach”

--Wikimedia Mexico

“Rebrand the WMF, and give Wikimedia user groups, chapters and orgs the freedom to call themselves Wikipedia Chapters if they like, maybe add another few provisions to make everyone's lives easier. Make it all voluntary. Will that result in more revenue, and volunteers? Likely. ”


“In authoritarian countries, an opt-out option should be taken seriously. Groups should be able to decide for themselves if or when they want to change.”

--Wikimedia Deutschland

“I believe that old conversations from 2005 should not steer where we are going and what we will do today. Everything has changed, the communities have changed. We shouldn’t take decisions based on discussions that took place a couple of years after Wikipedia started.”

--Wikimedians of the Levant

“Individual communities should have the freedom to decide whether to accept or reject this rebranding. The problems stated here might not be universal to all communities... Academians where I live doesn't want to deal with Wikipedians... but it was not difficult for us to attract them to Wikisource.”


Process of change analysis[edit]

There is a tension in community feedback around the timing of this change. Established Wikimedians, speaking entirely on Wikimedia-l, feel that this change would have been good in the past, but it is now “too late.” Emerging communities, offering feedback in affiliate meetings, feel that movement strategy offers us the time to change, and that decisions made without global voices should be reconsidered as the movement becomes more diverse.

Other respondents simply asked that community groups get to opt in/out of whatever brand decisions are made. These requests were met with further disagreement as some explained “brand lives from uniformity. If there are many exceptions, then it does not work.”


This report offers a view on community feedback to the Wolff Olins brand proposal dated November 2018. Feedback was collected from 3 primary channels: Meta-Wiki (via a dedicated talk page), email (via messages shared to brandproject@wikimedia.org), and meetings with affiliate reps (both in-person and online). Comments were collected in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Italian, German, and French and all translated into English for review.    

Feedback review took place over 2 weeks at the end of May 2019. Individual and affiliate positions were scored, if possible, to indicate if they were explicitly opposed or in support of the proposal. Comments were excerpted from feedback documents for clustering in digital whiteboarding sessions. This qualitative analysis is meant to guide decision-making about brand refinement, not to offer a “vote” or formal scoring of topics.


A look at the affiliate engagement map shows a wide international range of perspectives, with some concerning gaps. East Asia, especially China and Japan, offered no formal response to this proposal. Turkish community members were also not part of this consultation. Given the Turkish government’s attacks on Wikipedia we consider their perspectives critical. We recommend addressing these consultation gaps in any further brand refinement.

In addition, we had very few comments from Brazil and Russia. These critical growth regions, with active volunteers, are essential to movement growth and should engaged more deeply in future discussions.


Team thanks[edit]

This 4-month consultation was completed in collaboration between the Communications Department and the Community Relations team in Community Engagement. In particular, we would like to acknowledge the leadership of Elena Lappen, who maintained our on-wiki outreach and gave us strategic direction on how best to prep our materials for Wikimedians.

On the Communications team, work was led by Samir Elsharbaty, Blanca Flores, and Zack McCune with executive support from Heather Walls. Samir traveled for more than 4 weeks to share this proposal with affiliates, visiting Spain, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Blanca traveled to the Iberoconf event in Santiago Chile. Heather Walls and Zack McCune traveled to Sweden, Norway, the UK, and Germany to collect feedback at multiple events.