Wikipedia Zero

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia


Wikipedia Zero was a project by the Wikimedia Foundation to provide access to Wikipedia free of charge on mobile phones via zero-rating, particularly in developing markets.[1][2] The objective of the program was to facilitate access to free knowledge for low-income pupils and students, by means of waiving the network traffic cost. With 97 operators in over 72 countries, it was estimated that access to Wikipedia was provided to more than 800 million people through the program.[3] The program ended in 2018.

The program was launched in 2012,[4] and won the 2013 South by Southwest Interactive Award for activism.[5] It received criticism over the years for violating the principle of net neutrality.[6][7] In February 2018, the project announced the end of the initiative, stating that it would take a new strategy on partnerships.[8] Despite providing service to 900 million persons, the project was seen as jeopardized by a lack of growth, and by the declining price of cell phone data.[9]

Facebook Zero has been cited as an inspiration for Wikipedia Zero.[10]


Countries with Wikipedia Zero are shown in (green), and countries that were planned to get Wikipedia Zero are shown in (blue), 30 August 2018.

The map alongside shows the broad scale of launches.

In addition to that, Wikimedia Foundation: mobile network partners has a complete list of participating mobile networks and launch dates.

Countries that got Wikipedia Zero
Country Date Company
Malaysia 12 May 2012 Digi Telecommunications
Kenya 26 July 2012 Orange S.A.
Thailand October 2012 dtac
Saudi Arabia October 2012 Saudi Telecom Company
Pakistan May 2013 Mobilink
Sri Lanka June 2013 Dialog Axiata
Jordan October 2013 Umniah
Bangladesh October 2013 Banglalink
Kosovo April 2014 IPKO
Nepal May 2014 Ncell
Kyrgyzstan May 2014 Beeline
Nigeria May 2014 Airtel Nigeria
Ukraine October 2014 Kyivstar
Ghana December 2014 MTN Ghana
Angola December 2014 Unitel S.A.
Algeria January 2015 Djezzy
Moldova July 2015 Moldcell
Iraq March 2017 Asiacell
Afghanistan September 2017 Roshan

In February 2018, the Wikimedia Foundation announced that the Wikipedia Zero program would be completely phased out by the end of 2018.[8][11]

Reception and impact[edit]

Promotional video, produced by the Wikimedia Foundation and narrated by their founder Jimmy Wales
Promotional video about free access to Wikipedia, featuring a school-class from South Africa and their open letter to telecommunication companies

The Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones of Chile ruled that zero-rating services like Wikipedia Zero, Facebook Zero, and Google Free Zone, that subsidize mobile data usage, violate net neutrality laws and had to end the practice by 1 June 2014.[12][13] The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said, "Whilst we appreciate the intent behind efforts such as Wikipedia Zero, ultimately zero rated services are a dangerous compromise."[6] has been more critical, saying, "Wikimedia has always been a champion for open access to information, but it's crucial to call out zero-rating programs for what they are: Myopic deals that do great damage to the future of the open internet".[7]

The Wikimedia Foundation's Gayle Karen Young defended the program to The Washington Post, saying, "We have a complicated relationship to net neutrality. We believe in net neutrality in America", while adding that Wikipedia Zero required a different perspective in other countries: "Partnering with telecom companies in the near term, it blurs the net neutrality line in those areas. It fulfills our overall mission, though, which is providing free knowledge".[14]

Journalist Hilary Heuler argued that "for many, zero-rated programs would limit online access to the 'walled gardens' offered by the web heavyweights. For millions of users, Facebook and Wikipedia would end up being synonymous with 'internet'."[15] In 2015, researchers evaluating how the similar program Facebook Zero shapes information and communications technology use in the developing world found that 11% of Indonesians who said they used Facebook also said they did not use the Internet. 65% of Nigerians and 61% of Indonesians agree with the statement that "Facebook is the Internet" compared with only 5% in the United States.[16]

An article in Vice magazine notes that the free access via Wikipedia Zero made Wikimedia Commons a preferred way for its users in Bangladesh and elsewhere to share copyrighted material illicitly. This caused problems at Wikimedia Commons (where uploading media that is not free-licensed is forbidden). The Vice article is critical of the situation created by Wikipedia Zero and of the backlash among Wikimedia Commons editors, arguing: "Because they can't afford access to YouTube and the rest of the internet, Wikipedia has become the internet for lots of Bangladeshis. What's crazy, then, is that a bunch of more-or-less random editors who happen to want to be the piracy police are dictating the means of access for an entire population of people."[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Russell, Brandon (22 February 2013). "Wikipedia Zero Wants to Bring Wikipedia to Mobile Users Without a Data Plan". TechnoBuffalo. Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  2. ^ Wadhwa, Kul Takanao (22 February 2013). "Getting Wikipedia to the people who need it most". Knight Foundation. Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Wikipedia Zero - Wikimedia Foundation". Archived from the original on 22 April 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  4. ^ Sofge, Erik (8 March 2013). "SXSW: Wikipedia for Non-Smartphones Is Brilliant. Here's Why". Popular Mechanics. Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  5. ^ Riese, Monica (12 March 2013). "SXSW Interactive Awards Announced". The Austin Chronicle. Austin, Texas: Austin Chronicle Corp. ISSN 1074-0740. Archived from the original on 17 March 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Net Neutrality and the Global Digital Divide". Electronic Frontier Foundation. 24 July 2014. Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Wikipedia Zero and net neutrality: Wikimedia turns its back on the open internet". 8 August 2014. Archived from the original on 4 January 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Building for the future of Wikimedia with a new approach to partnerships – Wikimedia Diff". Wikimedia Foundation. 16 February 2018. Archived from the original on 18 February 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  9. ^ Tiwari, Aditya (19 February 2018). "Free 'Wikipedia Zero' Is Shutting Down After Serving 800 Million Users". Fossbytes. Archived from the original on 25 June 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  10. ^ Dillon, Conon (18 December 2013). "Wikipedia Zero: free data if you can afford it". Archived from the original on 23 January 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  11. ^ Fingas, Jon (18 February 2018). "Wikipedia ends no-cost mobile access for developing countries". Engadget. Archived from the original on 19 February 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  12. ^ Mirani, Leo (30 May 2014). "Less than zero – When net neutrality backfires: Chile just killed free access to Wikipedia and Facebook". Quartz. Archived from the original on 4 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  13. ^ McKenzie, Jessica (2 June 2014). "Face Off in Chile: Net Neutrality v. Human Right to Facebook & Wikipedia". Archived from the original on 5 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Wikipedia's 'complicated' relationship with net neutrality". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 25 June 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2017.
  15. ^ Hilary Heuler. "Who really wins from Facebook's 'free internet' plan for Africa?". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  16. ^ Leo Mirani (9 February 2015). "Millions of Facebook users have no idea they're using the internet". Archived from the original on 6 July 2015. Retrieved 6 July 2015.
  17. ^ Koebler, Jason (27 March 2016). "Wikipedia's Piracy Police Are Ruining the Developing World's Internet Experience". Motherboard. Vice Media. Archived from the original on 24 March 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017.

External links[edit]