Wiki-what? We caught up with Wikivoyage administrator Peter Fitzgerald to find out where the nonprofit plots itself in the world of travel publishing.
What is Wikivoyage, and how does it differ from for-profit entities that allow readers to provide original content and ratings?
What Wikipedia is to encyclopedias, Wikivoyage is to travel guides. The first difference from for-profit travel services that you’ll notice is the lack of intrusive ads, annoying pop-up windows, and unsolicited booking tools. But more important is that the content is “free” in the sense of “freedom.” All contributions to Wikivoyage have a Creative Commons Attribution–ShareAlike license. That means that contributors retain ownership of their work, unlike [contributors to] TripAdvisor or similar Web sites, which claim copyright over your own original writing and photography!
How do you think Wikivoyage represents the future of travel guides?
Traditional travel publishers contend that traditional guidebooks with paid editors will be necessary for quality control, but there’s no reason why we can’t crowdsource quality control—already we have regions, cities, or other destinations that are de facto curated by one or a few trustworthy, talented contributors, who keep them up-to-date and accurate. The other contention is that readers won’t always have access to the Internet, or won’t want to be flashing their Androids on the streets of Jakarta, and therefore will still need printed books. But travelers can simply print out our guides individually or assemble their own custom books using our Book Creator—either printing it themselves, or getting it bound and printed-on-demand professionally through PediaPress.
An earlier iteration of the site, Wikitravel, has technically been around for 10 years. What has changed—both in terms of content and organization—since the official relaunch of Wikivoyage on January 15?
Wikivoyage has a lot of new and up-to-date content. We now use scrollable, zoomable maps right in the articles themselves, for example. In addition to a q&a forum about travel, where readers can post questions and anyone can respond with his or her personal recommendations, we also have a new reviews system in the works. There people will be able to rate attractions or businesses on a scale of one to 10 and leave their own personalized reviews. This should attract new types of contributors who are less comfortable with the wiki format, and [it should] be a huge help in growing our site in terms of content and reliability.