The Wikimedia foundation has extended its “mission is to empower a global volunteer community to collect and develop the world's knowledge” by adding a travel site to its portfolio of online services.
Wikivoyage, as the new site is called, is billed as a non-commercial source of traveller-penned travel advice and already offers more than 50,000 pages.
That stance takes the site into territory very close to that inhabited by TripAdvisor, a for-profit site that has generated controversy because it has not always been particularly responsive when asked to moderate negative reviews. Allegations that some of those negative reviews come rival travel businesses hoping to game the site with false reports about their competitors have also dogged the site.
Those allegations make an independent alternative welcome, but many may feel that alternative already exists in the form of wikitravel.org. That site carries no obvious signs of paid content and offers the same “anyone can edit” facility as Wikimedia's sites, but the fine print points out it is owned by an outfit called Internet Brands.
Whether Wikivoyage can avoid some of the edit wars that have plagued its encyclopaedic parent remains to be seen.
Yet even if its articles aren't always stellar, the advent of the new, “official” tourism Wiki may be a boon for travellers given Wikimedia's status as the world's fifth-most-trafficked web site should see its (hopefully) independent articles propelled high into organic search results. The travel sector is currently noted for vigorous search engine optimisation activity that sees hotel booking services dominate results for the names of many tourist hotspots. If Wikivoyages can make some of those tactics less effective, it will do travellers a service even if its articles don't make the planet less lonely. ®