Wikipedia to debut revolutionary travel site?

It seems that the Wikimedia Foundation is getting into the travel business. Can it possibly be more objective than sites like TripAdvisor?

Yes, the view from this hotel was lovely. But the staff were weird. Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Online travel information can be very difficult to gauge.

Sometimes, you have no idea if the person who posted about a hotel's supreme service works for the hotel itself or whether the person revealing the presence of cockroaches just happens to be a competitor.

Yet now the bastions of objectivity at the Wikimedia Foundation seem to be getting into the travel business.

For, as Skift.com tells it, the boys from Wikipedia are to set up their own, as yet unnamed, travel site.

It seems that this travel site will be a guide for all who wish to depart their own environments. Which, given the tortured state of every part of the world, means pretty much everyone.

Two days ago, the Wikimedia Foundation's board of trustees was said to have approved the move (which is not quite the case, see update below) and, yes, the new site may well be ad-free.

It is also reportedly to be bolstered by the arrival of 31 out of 48 administrators of Wikitravel, which does bear more than a passing resemblance to Wikipedia.

Wikitravel is owned by Internet Brands -- a group that includes FlyerTalk and FrugalTravelGuy.

According to Tnooz.com, there has been something of a contretemps between Internet Brands and certain factions at Wikitravel. There has been criticism, for example, of a lack of technological investment.

Perhaps more fascinating, though, is to wonder what a Wikimedia-run travel site might look like. Given Wikipedia's very powerful presence in Google results, one can conceive that its sister site will cut a very prominent aspect whenever any aspect of travel is Googled.

This might give it considerable power and influence. After all, research has shown that more than 70 percent of worldwide examination answers are memorized or copied from Wikipedia. (Yes, I made that number up. It's probably more.)

It has never been easy to get the right information about travel.

Well-known sites such as TripAdvisor have been dogged with controversy about whether the postings on their sites are from real people or people who want to seem real.

One simply doesn't know what is believable, though this has always been the case with any information related to places we don't know.

Can we possibly believe a hotel that says it's a two-minute walk from the beach? Can we trust an alleged traveler who says the hotel's Wi-Fi is lightning fast? Is there any fast Wi-Fi in Italy at all?

These are questions that perhaps the new Kon-Wiki Expedition will answer fully, but not in the glorious manner that might be offered by, say, Basil Fawlty.

Critics might suggest that anything associated with the Wikimedia Foundation will inevitably be arid -- a desert full of sand grains of information, but lacking in the emotive joy and wonder of, say, Lawrence of Arabia.

Naturally, there will be speculation about how many resources will be placed behind this new travel effort and how quickly the community will begin its work.

As the planet gets less virtually lonely, but more actually lonely, the fundamental question still applies: whom can you trust?

Update, July 14, 9:02 a.m. PT: Wikimedia tells me the final decision has yet to be made. That will take "a few more weeks."

However, the Wikimedia Board of Trustees has declared itself "excited" at the prospect. The board feels "there is room for multiple travel sites to coexist."

There's a strong caveat in the board's statement though: "Should consensus be reached and a travel project created, the foundation could support the initial creation of a travel guide project, but could not provide a great deal of additional engineering or staff support. Further technical efforts would have to come from the community."

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

iPhone running slow?

Here are some quick fixes for some of the most common problem in iOS 7.