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Future Audiences/Exploring Future States

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Future Audiences Objective 1: Exploring "Future States." Below is our thinking on different ways the knowledge ecosystem and our role within it could look in the coming decades. These "Future States" originated from the Wikimedia Foundation's annual monitoring and reporting on external trends, and discussions with staff, Wikimedia affiliates, and individual community members over the course of the 2022-3 and 2023-4 fiscal years.

These future states are open for continued discussion and refinement based on new data, insights from experiments, and evolving external trends. If you have feedback or ideas on these or other potential future states, please leave a note on the talk page!

Future State name: Status Quo ("Search-Driven Knowledge") "Destination" "Free Knowledge Everywhere" "Internet's Conscience"
Description This is how we currently reach readers and new contributors. This status quo relies heavily on search engines to drive readers and new contributors to our projects and is exposed to risk if the way knowledge search works (web browser → search engine results → Wikipedia) changes significantly. We do not rely on any external platforms – search engines or otherwise – to syndicate our content and instead focus on attracting knowledge seekers directly to our projects. We do this by creating the features they want and making it easier, faster, more enjoyable, and/or more reliable to get knowledge from our projects than via any external service. Rather than relying on search engines to drive traffic to our sites, we proactively push free knowledge out to external platforms – not just to search engines but also social platforms, where we reach millions more people (including the younger audiences who are currently expressing less interest in/affinity with Wikipedia[1]). Users consume rich media based on Wikimedia content through videos, stories, etc., built in those platforms’ systems. Hooks in the external platforms draw in editorial and monetary contributions. We acknowledge that vast amounts of information are being exchanged all over the internet and that Wikimedia could be an engine to help the world sift reliable information from the rest. Wikimedia content powers new off-platform tools that evaluate the reliability of information on search and social platforms. Those tools also encourage users to contribute new sources or flag content that needs vetting, keeping the knowledge ecosystem healthy.
Key features
  • Most readers come to us through search engines (primarily Google).[2]
  • Much smaller fraction come to us directly (via desktop or mobile).
  • Our content is not well-represented and/or well-attributed off-platform.
  • There are no methods for contributing off-platform.
  • We modernize our offering to compete with the experiences that are attracting audiences around the world.
  • Wikipedia would be peoples’ destination for learning, the way Amazon is for shopping and TikTok is for entertainment.
  • This might mean building our own video or AI offerings, and marketing in new ways.
  • Instead of expecting most readers to come to our properties, we actively push content out to search and social platforms.
  • Users consume rich media based on our content, built by external creators and Wikimedians.
  • Hooks in external platforms draw in contributions to edit and/or donate.
  • We enable better vetting of content anywhere that information appears online.
  • Billions of consumers get better-quality knowledge – anywhere they are online – thanks to our movement.
  • Anyone interested in sifting good information from bad, on our projects or off, can join our movement.
Key assumptions
  • Web search engines will continue to be how most people start searching for knowledge in the next 10-15 years.
  • Web search engines will continue to display results from Wikipedia with links to our projects, and people will follow links to our projects in the next 10-15 years.
  • Search and social platforms will be increasingly inundated with low-quality knowledge over the next 10-15 years, and knowledge seekers will grow frustrated with their lack of reliability, transparency, neutrality, etc.
  • We could attract new readers and contributors to come directly to our platform with the right features.
  • People want encyclopedic content on social apps & other third party platforms.
  • Platforms and/or creators are willing to credit Wikipedia.
  • Some people on other platforms are curious enough to get involved with our communities.
  • People on third-party platforms care about the reliability of the information they encounter, and they trust Wikipedia to verify it.
  • Third-party platforms and/or creators are interested in being seen as providing reliable/verifiable content.
Experiments Wikipedia plugin for ChatGPT (July 2023-Jan 2024) Citation Needed (Jan 2024-July 2024)
Key insights ChatGPT is not (yet) widely used to seek information by most people.

People trust AI information more when they know it is coming from Wikipedia.

(In progress)

Other ideas for alternative Future States to explore?


Please let us know on the talk page!