Wikipedia founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales says that Wikia, his new for-profit wiki and search engine company, will never censor its content or compromise its users the way Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others have done in China.
In Taipei at Wikimania, the annual world conference for people who work on Wikipedia and all its associated projects, Jimbo gave a presentation about Wikia, describing how he plans to create an open search engine which anybody on the planet can help build, and whose algorithms will be made public. For more about Wikia search click here, here, and here. Even if Wikia doesn't beat Google, its entry into the search engine space could well bring a great deal of change to the way all search engines are expected to operate and how they relate to their users.
Jimbo has stood firm and refused to censor the Chinese Wikipedia, even though that means it is blocked in mainland China most of the time. I asked him whether he thinks Wikia, as a for-profit company, can afford to take the same high moral ground when most other major Internet companies have found that impossible - because they feel they simply cannot afford to be shut out of the world's fastest growing market which will soon contain the world's biggest pool of Internet users.
Will Wikia censor? Jimbo said: "we dont anticipate ever doing that." He said that the creation of a censored search engine for the Chinese market was "a bad business decision for Google... The damage they've done for their brand in the long run is substantial." While he still likes Google, he said "it really has changed from the day when you thought, wow, Google is fantastic. Whatever money they're making in the short run, I think they've damaged their global brand."
"When there is a sufficient amount of change that the Great Firewall is torn down," he said, "the Chinese people will appreciate that Wikipedia stood its moral ground. Google has lost its ability to do that."
UPDATE: Here is a report from Taiwan's CNA news agency summarizing what Jimbo said at a separate press conference about Wikipedia and China.