Wikipedia is the Next Google

    December 1, 2005

Fear. You can just feel it in the air, can’t you? There is fear everywhere that Google has become too powerful. As John Battelle notes, the tide of public opinion is starting to turn from loving Google to fearing them.

Wikipedia is the Next Google
Will Wikipedia Get Google Big?

Editor’s Note: How big will Wikipedia become? Will it grow to the size of a Google-like company? If so, will the user-friendly online encyclopedia feel some of the same backlash? Discuss at WebProWorld.

Perhaps. But I have news for you. Google’s not the only monarch to watch – or fear – anymore. Despite the media’s fascination with all things search, Wikipedia is waiting in the wings as the next Google. They (or maybe that’s “we”) are the emerging king disruptor; the one entity that we will soon fear most, if not already.

Let’s take a walk through history. King Disruptor I was Microsoft. For years this king attracted legions of fans for providing access to information; for making getting on the Internet easy. However, soon the once-loved king saw its popularity erode once Microsoft invaded one too many industries.

At its peak, Microsoft ruled the technology kingdom like a tyrant, leaving fear everywhere in its wake. This reached a climax when it slayed the emerging prince with so much promise, Netscape. Later, as Microsoft invaded the nations of telecommunications, cable, gaming and media, it began to attract more ire. Eventually, the fear rose to a fever pitch and it was determined that Microsoft crossed the line. It went too far.The people – the people’s government that is – rose up to dethrone the king, or at least slow it.

In Microsoft’s wake a new ruler emerged – King Disruptor II, commonly known as Google. With its lightning quick search technology, friendly face and “do no evil” motto, Google won fans around the world. But eventually they too, like Microsoft, began to face enemies when they went too far. Now, for all of Google’s contributions to society, King Disruptor II is viewed as a scary king. This will surely continue as Google grows, moving its tentacles in to areas like books, classifieds, email, news, shopping, advertising, entertainment and more. It will only become a bigger target.

History is about to repeat itself. A successor to Google’s throne is waiting in the wings – it’s Wikipedia, King Disruptor III. Like its predecessors, Wikipedia is powerful because it provides access to largely accurate information that can be hard to find. This king, however, is unlike any other because it operates in a completely democratic way. It’s run by the people, without any grand financial ambitions. This doesn’t mean its rule will be perceived solely as a benevolent one, however.

Already, Wikipedia instills a deeper fear than either Google or Microsoft did when they were at such a young age. It’s the emerging king. Will it face the same scrutiny and fate as its predecessors as it expands? Certainly. But this time it will be far more difficult to slow. Yes, King Disruptor III – Wikipedia – might rule for years. And perhaps this may just be the way it was meant to be.

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Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.