Le Web 3: Wikipedia founders launch new grassroots news project

The team behind Wikipedia has created a new open-source initiative which allows people to create free news and opinion websites covering their topics of interest.

Wikia, a free-wiki offshoot of the popular encyclopedia, announced the creation of OpenServing at the Le Web 3 conference in Paris today after recently purchasing grassroots news site ArmchairGM to acquire the underlying software.

The site will give authors free, managed hosting space, a collaborative news blog, customer support and all revenue from adverts placed on their site. CEO Gil Penchina said he had no idea how the company would make money from the project, which he called a “social business”.

“We think it’s going to be like Time-Warner – today’s news, today’s opinion,” he told Journalism.co.uk.

“The concept of a bunch of magazines resonates with [old media]; they have a harder time believing that you can write an encyclopedia with volunteers.

“I would love to see a city news and opinion version of OpenServing in every city or town; there’s no reason not to.”

But, Mr Penchina said, having delivered the platform for users to create news, Wikia would leave it up to users to decide which areas to cover.

Wikia was founded by Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley in 2004. Its investors include activist-entrepreneur Joi Ito, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network. Mr Wales’ Wikipedia Foundation previously launched the Wikinews project in citizen journalism, which, despite initial fanfare, has recently fallen off many radars.

Hear more from Mr Penchina’s address to Le Web 3 here: