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Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan/2024-2025/External Trends

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Each year, the Wikimedia Foundation shares a list of external trends that prompt us to look outward and ask: “as a Movement, what does the world need from us now?” Trends analysis requires us to bring a long-term view, and to closely track and monitor what feels most important to our projects, even if we may have differing perspectives about how best to respond. Given our increasingly complex and fast-changing environment, this is not a comprehensive list of threats and opportunities facing the Wikimedia movement, but rather a few of the most pressing issues we believe we now face us and have been tracking since 2020:

  1. Search: Consumers are inundated with information, and want it aggregated by trusted people
  2. Content: Contributors have many rewarding, potent ways to share knowledge online
  3. Disinformation: Content veracity is more contested than ever before, and AI will be weaponized
  4. Regulation: Poses challenges, threats, and opportunities that vary by jurisdiction

This year, we are breaking Search and Content trends into two categories: changes in consumer preferences that are impacting online knowledge search and discovery, and changes to the where and how knowledge can be shared that impact contributor motivations.


Consumers are inundated with information, and want it aggregated by trusted people

Gen Z and younger millennial preference for short-form, summarized information from “authentic” personalities continues to grow. More platforms offer this than ever before (e.g., Bluesky, Twitter/X, Substack, TikTok). TikTok continues to dominate, growing in global usage and offering more search capabilities. Web search engines are piloting new AI offerings to stay competitive, but the success of these features is still uncertain.

Personalized, algorithmically driven knowledge is on the rise. In last year’s research on external trends, we noticed user trends towards apps that served rich media content like video and audio. This year, we’re seeing that more people prefer to get information from apps that offer not just rich media content, but highly personalized, algorithmically-pushed content in a variety of entertaining, easy-to-consume formats. Consumers seek charismatic, like-minded people who share their point of view to aggregate and curate knowledge.

Knowledge from objective sources (i.e., web search) is in flux. To continue to keep users engaged, search engines are releasing new AI-assisted search features that summarize results. These may become a new paradigm for web search, more severely impacting traffic to publishers’ content – or they may continue to fail to catch on. AI is not yet widely used by most consumers as a substitute for web search (though some surveys indicate that younger audiences are more trusting of ChatGPT than Google).

Trend 2 - Content


Contributors have many rewarding, potent ways to share knowledge online

Online platforms are actively luring in experts and amateurs alike to produce more content, including knowledge content. Contributors have many choices for how and where to share knowledge seamlessly to millions of consumers, while also reaping financial and personal rewards.

Sharing knowledge is easier and more fun than ever before. New tools for creating social media content such as video and audio production tools and generative AI, formerly only available and accessible to professionals, are now available to anyone. New media types – short video, podcasts, memes, viral trends, etc. – allow for more creativity and serve different learning modes.

Sharing knowledge is more rewarding and powerful than ever before. Content contributors on social media have significant financial incentives from direct payment and brand sponsorships, social incentives from audience engagement (likes, comments, follows), and can amass huge reach quickly and directly, shaping the narrative for global audiences in the millions or billions.

Trend 3 - Disinformation


Content veracity is more contested than ever before, and AI will be weaponized

Information warfare will intensify and trust in institutions will further erode in 2024, the biggest election year in world history. Highly contested elections combined with the spread of prolonged geopolitical conflict will spur political candidates, governments, and others to use disinformation online to influence election outcomes and sway global public opinion about military conflict and social movements.

Human rights threats are growing. Physical and legal threats against volunteers and staff who fight disinformation continue to grow. Accusations of bias and inaction by those whose preferred narratives do not prevail on Wikipedia may be encouraged and amplified by purveyors of disinformation.

Generative AI brings novel challenges, but also opportunities. Governments are under pressure to assert control as GenAI fuels moral panic. The potential value of Wikimedia’s human-governed content in the world of GenAI is considerable, but in order to remain relevant we must overcome the threats we face to our content and community integrity.

Trend 4 - Regulation


Regulation poses challenges, threats, and opportunities that vary by jurisdiction

With major new platform regulation in the EU and UK, we now face unprecedented compliance requirements, especially around child safety and responsible use of AI. Stopping existentially harmful enforcement - especially in the name of child safety - requires increased education of policymakers about our model.

Law is weaponized in important jurisdictions. Bad-faith lawsuits, by people who don’t like the verified information appearing on Wikipedia pages, are succeeding in some European countries. Some incumbent leaders are abusing their powers to silence and intimidate political opponents.

Some policymakers are interested in how Wikimedia advances the public interest and sustainable development. In the European Union some politicians see Wikipedia as digital public infrastructure deserving support, becoming a model platform for using technology to promote a social good without unwarranted regulatory burden. UN bodies are asking how our projects can advance Sustainable Development Goals.