The Wikipedia Free Access Zero Program Hits an Abrupt End In 2018

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The Wikimedia Foundation has announced that free access to Wikipedia will end in 2018, which was part of the Wikipedia Zero partnership programme.

The organization has discontinued Zero and has stopped forming new carrier partnerships. It will let its existing alliances end over time.

Wikipedia Zero was created in 2012 to address high mobile data costs when accessing the service.Through the program, the foundation partnered with mobile operators to waive mobile data fees for their customers to freely access Wikipedia on mobile devices.

“Over the course of this year, no additional Wikipedia Zero partnerships will be formed and the remaining partnerships with mobile operators will expire,” said the Wikimedia Foundation.

In the programme’s six-year run, the foundation partnered with 97 mobile carriers in 72 countries to provide access to Wikipedia to more than 800 million people free of mobile data charges.

However, since 2016 they have seen a significant drop off in adoption and interest in the program and that participation is necessary to keep Zero alive.

“This may be due to the rapidly-shifting mobile industry, as well as changes in mobile data costs,” said the foundation.

“At this same time, we conducted extensive research to better understand the full spectrum of barriers to accessing and participating in Wikipedia.

One of the critical issues we identified as part of this research was low awareness of Wikipedia outside of North America and Europe. To address this, we experimented with new projects and partnerships to increase awareness of Wikipedia, and we’ve experienced some initial success in this work. In Iraq, for example, we raised awareness of Wikipedia by more than 30%. In Nigeria, we partnered with Nigerian community members and Nollywood stars to introduce more than 15 million people to Wikipedia and how it works.”

This doesn’t mean that Wikimedia has given up on Zero-like concepts. That improved recognition has given the organization “several ideas” for its next course of action, and it’s using 2018 to mull things over. The move could amount to a hiatus rather than a permanent end. All the same, the discontinuation is unfortunate for those who did use Wikipedia Zero. For now, at least, they’ll have to either pay for enough data to visit Wikipedia or go without.

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