Time to Overhaul or Abolish the InterWiki Map

The Wikipedia Mailing List is discussing a fascinating point. Why aren’t Wikia links restricted under no-follow?

For that matter, why are all the arbitrarily favored sites on the interwiki map benefitting from Wikipedia’s stellar PageRank?

Nik Cubrilovic covered this conflict-of-interest story for TechCrunch yesterday, spreading the news to 100,000’s of TechCrunch readers. Time to carefully consider this policy.

Who Profits from the InterWiki Map?

A PageRank 8 link from Wikipedia is SEO Gold. Wikipedia is one of the highest PageRank sites on the internet; a direct link can give your site a tremendous boost in search engine rankings. Recognizing the value of these links, MediaWiki software automatically adds “nofollow” to outgoing links in an effort to discourage linkspamming.

Only sites on the InterWiki Map receive PageRank from Wikipedia.

If your Interwiki site is for-profit like Wikia, receiving 100’s of PR8 links from Wikipedia, this translates into thousands of dollars of increased ad revenue, as well as a competitive traffic advantage over every non-interwiki site.

Can Anyone Explain the Logic of the InterWiki Map?

So there are huge monetary and traffic advantages to being included in the InterWiki map. So the map must be a pretty exclusive list, right?

Wrong.

Look at the completely arbitrary hodgepodge of sites allowed on the interwiki map. First of all, there are a large number of for-profit sites commercially benefitting from this PageRank gold; sites like WikiTravel, the Cellphone Wiki, and Comixpedia.

Next we have for-profit sites like Del.icio.us which is not even a wiki! Whatever happened to never commoditizing Wikipedia?

The map is dominated by a dozen Wikia sites, including Wikifur, a site dedicated to people who have sex in animal costumes.

Presumably the sole stated purpose of the InterWiki map is to allow people an easier syntax for linking to useful sites. But who needs a faster way to link to the New Paltz, NY Community Town Wiki? Or a wiki devoted to the middle earth game of Wurm?

Why the InterWiki Map is Arbitrary and Unfair

Case in point.

ValueWiki, a site covering 65,000 publicly traded stocks, funds, and securities, was rejected from inclusion in the InterWiki map. The request was simply deleted without any explanation.

Yet it seems clear that potentially thousands of Wikipedia pages could relevantly interlink with thousands of ValueWiki pages. ValueWiki contains many articles on publicly traded companies that simply don’t exist on Wikipedia.

But presumably, it is more important to include the for-profit Doom Wiki on the InterWiki Map, for all the Wikipedians who need to quickly link to a wiki about a PC game from 1993.

To give a sense of the power Wikipedia’s PageRank 8 confers on ad sites like Doom Wiki, consider that of ValueWiki’s 23,801 inlinks, the highest PageRank inlink is a 6. This is how rare a PR 8 site is.

Add NoFollow to the InterWiki Map, or Delete the InterWiki Map Altogether

This list is arbitrary favoritism. It commoditizes Wikipedia, and provides an unfair competitive advantage to a number of for-profit sites. It is also deeply unclear the InterWiki map saves anyone much time when writing links. I can understand shortcuts for Wikipedia’s sister projects, but I find it hard to believe many Wikipedian Canyon-enthusiasts have memorized the syntax for linking to CanyonWiki.

The Map provides no explanation or criteria for why ValueWiki is excluded from the list. But more importantly, it provides no explanation for why dozens of arbitrary sites are included in the list. I refuse to believe that Nazis who have sex in animal costumes are more relevant than ValueWiki.

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15 Responses to Time to Overhaul or Abolish the InterWiki Map

  1. Kenny says:

    From what I can tell, Pagerank isn’t much of a consideration when it comes to interwiki links. The “nofollow” attribute is more of an afterthought. Looking at the archived talk page, it seems as if the people looking at your request lost track of it. You shoul probably try to submit it again.

  2. BeeDee says:

    I should point out that while it is true that _some_ furries have sex in animal costumes and are generally perverted and such, you are drastically misrepresenting furry fandom by painting them all with that brush. It’s like describing Trekkies as nothing but “guys who write stories about Kirk and Spock having sex”. There are extremes in practically any interest group.

    That said, I agree that making a distinction between interwiki and non-interwiki links like this is arbitrary. Having interwiki links can be quite useful, for example in some cases (such as Wikifur and Comixpedia) these external specialist wikis serve as relief valves for material that can’t survive AfD on Wikipedia itself, but making them all nofollow links as well should solve the pagerank unfairness without harming that function.

  3. WWWWolf says:

    Okay, I was going to comment on the Typically Wrong comment on WikiFur and the perception of furries in general, but since that’s such an incredibly boring and tired field, I’m not going to. However, Doom Wiki is not exactly “for-profit” from point of view of Doom Wiki, at least; it’s a Wikia site, so whatever profit they indirectly make goes to Wikia. Secondly, it’s not strictly about a the original game; it also includes Doom 3 (released in 2004 and currently id Software’s flagship graphics engine, so it’s highly relevant) and various mods for the whole series (still being developed, even for the original Doom). The financial and community support for the games are still strong. The game series is very much alive and played by thousands of game enthusiasts. Saying the wiki is irrelevant is thus extremely wrong.

    You make a somewhat valid point here: there is arbitrariness in inclusion to the interwiki map. However, there’s two big points you probably need to consider:

    1) Technical issues: I guess the interwiki map was originally meant to facilitate the inter-Wikimedia collaboration. If we just abolish the thing, we’re breaking all of the inter-language-edition links, Commons linkage and other links to Wikimedia sister sites. I’d also imagine there’s currently no code to treat some interwikis differently from others in regards to the nofollow attribute; if we want to treat non-Wikimedia sites differently, the functionality has got to be programmed first.

    2) If you’re making a valid point, it’d help if you’d not look blatantly like “my site is GREAT and all these sites are CRAP and I want EVERYONE ELSE destroyed if my GREAT site is not included too whine whine whine”. Those who fight monsters should be careful not to become monsters themselves. Please consider outward appearances too. =)

  4. urmom says:

    Quit complaining.

  5. davidgerard says:

    I should point out that pagerank is not a consideration for Wikipedia – it contributes nothing to the project of writing an encyclopedia, which is why SEOs and Googlemancers find it so hard to find anyone at Wikipedia or Wikimedia who cares. Anyone who thinks threatening us with a loss of pagerank is something that actually affects the project content is not conceivably our constituency.

    (In fact, if everyone could please put “nofollow” on all links to Wikipedia, that would be just dandy thanks. All the traffic in the world is not in fact our goal. Being a top 10 website has, in my opinion, actively hindered the process of writing the encyclopedia.)

    The interwiki map is there for the convenience of the projects. Not for the SEO spammers.

    Note that the TechCrunch article takes a pile of factual errors and develops a conspiracy theory from them to make a splashy story. The first thirtyish comments develop the conspiracy theory. My comment took about a day for them to get around to approving …

  6. davidgerard says:

    Note that I’m not calling ValueWiki SEO spammers! In fact I’ll be suggesting you for the interwiki map if no-one else does.

    However, my essential point is: Our responsibility as a top 10 site is to our readers. Our responsibility is not to a third party (SEO optimisers) to make them look good to a fourth party (Google). People whose interest in Wikipedia is page rank are in no way, shape or form our constituency. We will only do a disservice to the project itself to pay them the faintest attention whatsoever.

  7. Douglas Muth says:

    Did you even read through WikiFur before making that comment?

    Here, learn something: http://furry.wikia.com/wiki/Furry

  8. waldir says:

    1) I believe that if the interwiki map was smaller, more people would know the sintax of useful sites to link. At least I would care to read it all and memorize those I’d use.

    2) Why the heck not adding nofollow to the links in the map? For matters of consistency, I think that should be done as regular external links are already treated that way.

    3) It’s sad to watch people say “quit complaining” to something that may be biased but has a point.

  9. GreenReaper says:

    As the founder – and the person who asked for WikiFur to be included in the interwiki map in the first place – I guess I should say something here.

    Firstly, I’d note that this kind of linking is, or should be, reciprocal. Wikipedia has lots of links to WikiFur – but WikiFur has far *more* interwiki links to Wikipedia. And you can bet those links aren’t marked “nofollow”.

    Secondly, while Wikia may make some money from the ads on the side, they’re not the ones who put WikiFur on the interwiki list. We – the members of the community – did that. (Personally, I suspect they don’t get much money from the ads given the nature of fan communities, but I don’t have any proof of that.)

    Frankly, I don’t think nofollow is a good idea. I’d rather see it removed for all links. Wikipedia editors are pretty smart about removing spam, and the only result of nofollow is that Wikipedia articles themselves get promoted when the external links are often just as good “giving back” to topic-related pages that often link directly to Wikipedia articles (since only internal wiki links are promoted). I don’t know if this is actually how Google works, but if so, the nofollow attribute is inappropriate, since per Wikipedia’s policy, external links are *meant* to be ones which are worth promoting.

    Regardless, the fact of the matter is that WikiFur really is one of the best places to go for furry fandom information. That’s why it’s a regular link target, and that – along with its nature as a wiki – is why it has an interwiki map shortcut. If ValueWiki is a common link target and contains similar coverage style as Wikipedia then it too should have an interwiki link.

  10. davidgerard says:

    “Why the heck not adding nofollow to the links in the map? For matters of consistency, I think that should be done as regular external links are already treated that way.”

    Because the point is that they have a low risk of being spam links, it turns out.

    Turning on nofollow for random external links on the English Wikipedia – so that it matches all the other Wikipedias and Wikimedia projects – has noticeably lowered the spam link levels. So it works.

    What Wikipedia does with nofollow is entirely its own business. This remains third parties (SEO spammers) wanting to score points with fourth parties (Google) – and of absolutely no value to the actual point of the project itself. This is why no-one at Wikipedia or Wikimedia seems to care.

  11. davidgerard says:

    There you go. Don’t say we don’t love you really 😉

  12. davidgerard says:

    PS: the interwiki is not live yet – it will be next time the script sweeps through. No idea when that is. Then there won’t be any visible effect until the interwiki is used in project pages, of course.

  13. […] this sucks a fair amount of steam out of my snark-attack […]

  14. Jon says:

    A lot of great points here. I have posted an update.

    Also, for the furries, my response to GreenReaper: http://valuewiki.com/w/User_talk:Jonathan_Stokes#Your_recent_comments_regarding_WikiFur

  15. Patricia says:

    This is a great web blog. I visit you frequently and we get always valuable updates, regards!

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