Fandom is a wiki hosting service, co-founded by the wiki king himself Jimmy Wales, and it is big business. Unlike Wales' other ventures Fandom is a for-profit company and its homepage is one of the most popular websites in the world. The company was acquired in 2018 by private equity firm TPG Inc., following which it went on something of an acquisition spree itself and bought, among other things, Curse LLC's wiki service Gamepedia: host of countless official wikis including The Witcher, Minecraft, Dota 2, COD and Wowpedia.
Gamepedia's content was gradually migrated to Fandom's service before, in mid-2021, the site was rebranded as Fandom. But ever since the acquisition contributors and editors have been uneasy about Fandom's big money owners applying the nipple clamps and, as the site design has changed and there's been an increase in ads and popups, those feelings have finally boiled-over in one of the biggest wikis of all: Minecraft.
The Minecraft wiki editors are mad as hell and they're not gonna take it any more. What began as unease and Discord chat is now a vote on a full-scale migration of the Minecraft wiki away from Fandom, with the existing Fandom wiki being left as-is but not maintained while a fork of the Minecraft wiki goes to another host and lives happily ever after.
Minecraft wiki editor SonicWave has now created the discussion page where this is all going down and, if you're unfamiliar with wiki politics, this is now basically an emergency board meeting, and one where the numbers in support of a move are overwhelming. SonicWave summarises some of the editors' reasons thus:
- Degraded logged-out reader experience, due in part to the large number of ads (including ads inserted in the middle of wiki content to look like part of it), the obtrusive yellow Fandom navigation bar, and popups, including one asking readers to confirm their age to personalize the ads shown
- Adding features like Fandom-created quizzes to the top of pages, often citing vague statistics on "engagement" as justification
- The aforementioned yellow sidebar, which was justified as reinforcing Fandom's branding, but looks out of place on the wiki, is uncustomizable, and was added without discussion or opportunities for feedback
- Adding links to other wikis (some of which cover questionable topics) and unrelated Fandom articles in places like the Fan Feed and full-page search results
There is also deep disquiet among wiki editors over a recent controversy with the McDonalds wiki, in which Fandom replaced the existing Grimace page to a paid-for McDonalds advertorial, without the consent or knowledge of the McDonalds wiki editors. No I'm not making this up.
Two hosts have already reached out to the Minecraft wiki (Bulbapedia, which has its own usability issues, and ABXY), with another preferred option being wiki.gg which is run by former Gamepedia staff.
A discussion that will decide whether or not the Minecraft Wiki will leave Fandom, and where it will move to if so, has begun.If you have an account, you have the ability to voice your opinion on the matter, and we strongly encourage you to do so.https://t.co/UDeaH9aseAJuly 3, 2023
"Of course, switching hosts will not be a simple task," writes Sonicwave. "Notably, Fandom's forking policy requires the current wiki to be left intact and any links to the new wiki to not be displayed for longer than the first two weeks. This means that we will basically be creating a new wiki [...] The Fandom wiki, while no longer having its existing editors, will continue to remain up without any indication that it's moved, competing with and likely outranking the new wiki in Google search results due to Fandom's high SEO."
There are other problems, too, such as Google hiding duplicate content in search results, meaning much content will need a significant rewrite, what Sonicwave calls a "lack of transparency from Fandom" towards communities, the loss of certain wiki features, and the fact that the Minecraft wiki is available in 21 languages. The current thinking here is that, as these are maintained by distinct groups of contributors and editors, the English wiki will make the move first while the others see how successful it is.
In an act of self-sacrifice that would make a wiki editor proud, I read through the entire discussion page and calculated the support for and against the move. Of the 47 responses, many of which are substantial and deal with technical aspects or the logistics of the move, a whole five are against the move and wish to remain on Fandom. Despite the difficulties of the move, 42 Minecraft wiki contributors and editors have voted to tell Fandom to fork off.
Practicalities aside, the big question here is whether the Minecraft wiki would be able to escape its own gravitational pull. A new fork would be essentially competing with its own long-established origin point, and a topic as popular as Minecraft is going to attract more contributors and editors to Fandom at some point: whereupon we could have the oddity of two competing Minecraft wikis, both with a claim to being the original or official one. The community behind the Minecraft wiki desperately dislike Fandom, that much is clear. But whether it can escape its own considerable shadow remains to be seen.