So in the course of a conversation last week, I heard second-hand that VCs apparently have a valuation for the Wikipedia: Your favourite encyclopedia, condensed down into a single dollar figure. I suspect it was a valuation for just the English Wikipedia, but I’m not sure. And the dollar amount? Drum-roll please: Four billion US dollars.
Now, when I heard this, the following thoughts went through my mind:
- Amusement: Are you serious? VCs have assigned a dollar value to it? Why would they do that? What kind of warped world-view needs to reduce every single thing in existence down to a dollar value?
- Bafflement: How did you arrive at that specific figure? Did someone indicate that they were willing to pay 3.5 billion for it, but you reckoned you push them a little bit higher? Or did you estimate the total hours that people have put into it, and then estimate the cost of paying people to reproduce it? Or some other method? Enquiring minds want to know!
- Economic rationalist: Something is only worth what someone else will pay for it. If nobody will pay 4 billion, then as simple statement of fact, it is not worth 4 billion. So who would pay four billion for it?
- Entrepreneurial: 4 billion? Tell you what, if there are any buyers out there desperately wanting to purchase the Wikipedia, I’ll sell you a Wikipedia clone for only 2 billion, with 10% payable up-front as a deposit. You save 2 billion: it’s a bargain, at half the price! And to set up the clone, I’d simply approach the techs who set up the original Wikipedia, set up a partnership company to divide all profits equally between all the participants, and set up a well-resourced wiki farm, on nice servers, in some nice data centres on a number of continents, load up the most recent dump of the Wikipedia, and purchase a live Wikipedia feed from the WMF to make sure it was completely up-to-date, and call it something like “encyclopedia 3.0”. I’m sure most of the techs would be happy with this (who doesn’t have a student loan to repay, or credit cards bills due, or want to take a holiday, or buy a bigger home, or a newer car, or want to buy some new gadget: whatever it is, everyone has something, and millions of dollars would buy a lot of it), and if there are purchasers, they should be happy too at the great price: so everybody wins!
Very interesting post. I wonder if there are any estimates out there of how many Wikipedian worker-hours it took to make the encyclopedia? That would give you a hypothetical $/hr.
@Padraic: Erik Zachte did just that (and more) here: http://infodisiac.com/blog/2008/10/quantifying-volunteer-contribution/