Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, who has long since parted ways with that project, has in the meantime become an advocate for digital rights and decentralized web systems.
His intervening activities and his word as an early web pioneer carry quite a bit of weight with those who care about the free and open internet – and that might be what Sanger is counting on now as he is launching a new project meant to live up to his stated goals, under the umbrella of the Knowledge Standards Foundation non-profit.
The project is called Encyclosphere – and it aims to be an improved, decentralized iteration of the Wikipedia model – which, according to Sanger, has become too invested in acting as “a gatekeeper” for web’s virtual owners of today: the mega tech corporations.
The promise of Wikipedia’s “free encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone” has also dissipated over the past nearly two decades since this online encyclopedia first went online. In reality, a system of editors, moderators, and overseers has been established – all chipping away at what should be a source of information unaffected by bias and propaganda.
Sanger now says that Wikipedia’s governance model is pretty much as bad as that of openly and overtly centralized networks like Facebook and Twitter.
In a video announcing Encyclosphere, Sanger made a case for “a free giant global knowledge commons without any central control.”
His vision is to create a repository – an online location for storing and managing data – that will seek to indiscriminately, regardless of their size and perceived influence, include all available knowledge on the web – in his words, “all the encyclopedias (…) including small and new ones.”
Sanger’s plan is to have this information available on apps, and while it will be rated by experts, it will be also possible to index it “by nationality, religious, or political views.”
The idea is nothing short of ambitious – “a massive knowledge competition to best express human knowledge on every topic and from every point of view” – but given his past reputation, Sanger might be one of a few internet figures who have a leg to stand on while making an announcement of this kind.
What appears to be the primary motive behind the effort will also likely find an attentive, in nothing else, audience on the web: it’s to make sure that elites – such as those currently concentrated in the Big Tech fiefdom – aren’t allowed to “declare what is known for all of us.”
It’s a power they don’t deserve, Sanger says.