Monday, June 27, 2011

Wikipedia's freedom

Here's something I've been noticing in recent months: In all language versions of Wikipedia that I've come accross, they translate "the free encyclopedia" with the liberty meaning of free. But I've always understood the phrase as referring first and foremost to the fact that Wikipedia doesn't cost any money. After all, I don't see how the wiki-method necessarily implies greater liberty for anyone, but it certainly does imply that no one has to pay. Let's consider all the languages:

I could go on and on. I wonder if this was a deliberate decision by the Wikipedia Foundation when they first authorised other language versions, or whether it is the result of some sort of path dependence. On the other hand, here is a pre-wiki paper by Richard Stallman, a wiki-visionary, outlining the idea for a free encyclopedia. He talks about it very much in terms of freedom, whithout necessarily defining the term.

And, of course, the english Wikipedia page itself says that it is "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit."

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