Wikipedia’s Google traffic balloons, search site ‘should pay’

The amount of traffic sent from Google to Wikipedia has shot up 166% in the last year, according to data from Hitwise.

The open encyclopedia last month broke into the US’ list of top 10 websites, up four places on the previous month. Now researcher LeeAnn Prescott has revealed that 70% of Wikipedia’s hits come from search queries, and 50% from Google alone.

“Google’s share of Wikipedia’s upstream traffic from Google has increased by 19% over the past year, at the same time that Wikipedia’s market share of US visits increased by 143%,” Prescott wrote. “Last week Wikipedia was the #3 website in Google’s downstream, after Google Image Search and MySpace.”

Predicting the traffic increase, the Wikimedia Foundation last February opened a fundraising drive that has so far received over $1.1m in donations.

Google last month introduced a new feature which returns a highlighted Wikipedia article as the top search result when a query includes the words “info” or “information”. It is likely this has had an even greater impact on Wikipedia’s servers over the last couple of months.

Steve Rubel, a social media commentator and SVP at PR agency Edelman, now says the search site should pay the tab on the encyclopedia’s behalf: “Given this, one would hope that Google will finally pick up a big share of WIkipedia’s expenses – namely bandwidth and storage.”

Yahoo! has provided Wikipedia with donated server space in Asia since 2005. Similar talks with Google did not appear to result in any link-up.