The substantial interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A case study on the relationship between peer production communities and information technologies

Connor McMahon, Isaac Johnson, Brent Hecht

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

While Wikipedia is a subject of great interest in the computing literature, very little work has considered Wikipedia's important relationships with other information technologies like search engines. In this paper, we report the results of two deception studies whose goal was to better understand the critical relationship between Wikipedia and Google. These studies silently removed Wikipedia content from Google search results and examined the effect of doing so on participants' interactions with both websites. Our findings demonstrate and characterize an extensive interdependence between Wikipedia and Google. Google becomes a worse search engine for many queries when it cannot surface Wikipedia content (e.g. click-through rates on results pages drop significantly) and the importance of Wikipedia content is likely greater than many improvements to search algorithms. Our results also highlight Google's critical role in providing readership to Wikipedia. However, we also found evidence that this mutually beneficial relationship is in jeopardy: changes Google has made to its search results that involve directly surfacing Wikipedia content are significantly reducing traffic to Wikipedia. Overall, our findings argue that researchers and practitioners should give deeper consideration to the interdependence between peer production communities and the information technologies that use and surface their content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th International Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2017
PublisherAAAI Press
Pages142-151
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781577357889
StatePublished - 2017
Event11th International Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2017 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: May 15 2017May 18 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 11th International Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2017

Other

Other11th International Conference on Web and Social Media, ICWSM 2017
CountryCanada
CityMontreal
Period5/15/175/18/17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications

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