Is Wikimedia really an exception in the hyper centralisation of the Web?

By Lionel Scheepmans

This work could be relocated on my PdD thesis

Hyper-centralization of the web edit

At a time when we are debating implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation, the hyper-centralization of the World Wide Web, already denounced by its inventor since 2014[1] until 2018[2] seems to remain one of the major challenges of the Internet.

To fully understand the situation, we must first distinguish between what the Web is in relation to the Internet. The Internet is a worldwide computer network through which all kinds of computer currencies are connected through various protocols. The Web, on the other hand, represents only one of the Internet applications invented by Tim Berners-Lee several years after the establishment of the world computer network. To put it simply, the Web represents everything that can be referenced by a search engine, i.e. a set of "web pages" with audio-visual content that in most cases provides a set of hypertext links pointing to other pages. Apart from the connectivity point of view and the existence of exchange points, it would therefore make no sense to talk about centralization of internet. In this article, we will talk about hypercentralization in the use of the Web by Internet users, although an identical phenomenon can be observed outside the Web. All you need to do is look at email, instant messaging, file sharing systems and other services accessible via a computer or smartphone.

On the World Wide Wed, there exist indeed what could be considered spaces managed by monopolistic societies. Some of most famous companies are listed in the acronym GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft). To this list, we can add many other smaller actors in terms of market but benefiting as well from a central place on the Web for a certain sector of activity. Think of Airbnb for renting houses, Uber for online taxi, ebay for second hand market, etc.

All this hyper centralization poses many problems in terms of international governance, political economy, respect for privacy and even the autonomy of nations. Headquarters of many of these monopolistic societies are concentrated on a little part of the western world, mainly and probably for geostrategical reasons, in the silicon valley of the American Californian state. From this, a concentration of wealth and power results, in the hands of a few people: bad news for global democratic governance and equality in the distribution of wealth.

At the heart of this phenomenon and in the middle of all these listed companies, appears a very special non-profit company: the Wikimedia foundation.

Hyper-centralisation on Wikimedia projects edit


A monopolistic encyclopedia managed by a very decentralised community edit

  • One or many encyclopedia
  • translation project

A centralized financial management based on a decentralised digital labour and donations edit

A decentralised but elitist general governance edit


election as elitism ?

Notes and sources edit

  1. Clark, Liat. "Tim Berners-Lee: we need to re-decentralise the web". Retrieved 2018-06-04.
  2. "Tim Berners-Lee, inventeur du Web, appelle à la régulation de Facebook, Google et Twitter". FIGARO (in French). 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2018-06-04.