The Sharing Economy is NOT Big. Part 2. Wikipedia & Open Source Software

Sep 20, 2016 · 6 min read

September 16, 2016

Wikipedia as Commons-based peer production.

Commons-based peer production: Wikipedia

For years Wikipedia has been one of the biggest websites in the world and as of March of this year is the 7th largest site on the planet. Everything on Wikipedia is user-generated content (UGC). It is one of the most successful examples of a not for profit collaborative platform. All platforms that use UGC as a means of creating content to their platform are also part of the collaborative economy. Content creators are matched with content consumers directly through the platform.


Wikipedia, along with other sources of information on the internet has destroyed the encyclopedia business. It’s also expedited or damaged our ability to do research. Depending on who you ask. It would be difficult to gauge how many things are created using Wikipedia. There is some concern about how easy it is to edit the entries, but despite this when it comes to the accuracy of science articles it is on a level with Encyclopedia Britannica.

Today Wikipedia is the place to go for finding general knowledge. A large amount of the articles are written by passionate amateurs on a volunteer basis.

This free resource also fuels several AI projects. Siri and Alexa smart assistants use Wikipedia entries to answer user queries. Google-owned Jigsaw uses Wikipedia to train its open source troll-fighting AI. The encyclopedia is also used by hundreds of other AI platforms because of it’s article depth.`

Future: We can expect to see more articles and more languages added. As the article depth increases we will see more AI algorithms trained on it. In time it will be the first reference site in an increasing amount of languages. And it’s secondary use as a set of training data for AI systems will increase to other file types like sounds and images.

Wikipedia is a library on the internet. And wherever libraries flourish so does information. When there's a lot of information the ability to do things expands tremendously. I mentioned earlier that the number of things that have been created with the help of Wikipedia are countless. It’s content of all kinds, student homework & papers, AI algorithms and much more. As someone who visits libraries often, I always wished that the tools to create whatever I read about could be checked out too. And then the some of the times I read about science would have been times I dabbled with it. Since Wikipedia is the library of the 21st century, maybe they can figure out how to accomplish this.

Collaborative Creation: Open Source Software (OSS)

We rarely think about how amazing open source is. People volunteer time and energy to build great free software for anyone who wants it. Often the open source option is the best or second best on the market like Firefox, Apache, Linux, and Asterisk.

It has gained mass adoption. Companies who fought it tooth and nail have now turned around. Last year Microsoft open sourced .Net to compete with Java.

Facebook, Nike and VMWare all have open source initiatives. Toyota, Jaguar and Land Rover are planning to use automotive grade Linux soon. Accenture, GE, HP, Huwaiwei, IBM, Pivitol, SAP and Verizon, to name a few, are all running open source in some capacity.

More and more companies adopt it because open source is on average more secure, of a higher quality and more customizable than proprietary code. It also saves a lot of money. Basically, it makes business sense. Github, a git repository host for open source and enterprise software is now worth $2 Billion.


Blackduck published a study in 2009 looking at how much code is created in the open source movement. In this report, it says “We estimate that reproducing this OSS would cost $387 billion and would take 2.1 million people-years of development. In addition, we estimate that 10% of US-based development, representing $22 billion, is redundant and could be offset using OSS…”

The 2009 figure of $387 billion is really interesting because, in the same year, Microsoft was valued at $183.5 Billion. Half of the estimated value of Open Source Software. These values vary from source to source but even the most conservative numbers are in the billions.

Linux and its derivatives started popular features like desktop spaces and 3D desktop virtualization. Currently, between 60–70% of the world’s Web servers are running Linux. Modern television with app support. Linux. Refrigerators with built-in computers. Linux. DVR systems including TiVo — all Linux or one of it’s derivatives. Android too. And Chrome OS. And 90% of the world's supercomputers.

Languages like Python, Ruby, and Perl are open source. Cloud infrastructure, desktop OS, database, big data, containers, IoT, automotive & mobile are all backed by open source software. Google has open sourced TensorFlow, SyntaxNet and Wave. OpenAI, the non-profit AI research organization will end up open sourcing most of what they develop.

Almost every company and government agency in the United States uses open source software in some capacity. Almost every software category uses it or has dependencies on it. Open source software is now ubiquitous.


We can expect to see more open source software and continued adoption. It’s hard to get an accurate number about how many people participate in open source software. But I found this answer on Quora.

“… my guess would be that there is a million (or a few) who have ever produced open source code or a patch, on the order of ten million who have actively participated in some other way, and perhaps one hundred million who have knowingly used or deployed open source software. As for how many end-users there are who have used open source software, the answer is easy: anyone who has ever been on the internet. That’s billions.”

As the software becomes more open, so does the enterprise. This will lead to even more collaborations between companies and independent software developers like we currently see in app eco-systems. And we will see more open source being developed by enterprises.

The proliferation of open source also increases the availability of software in general. Developers have more free software to use and learn from. It’s clear that open source has also contributed to the quality of modern software.

Because it’s so disruptive, some enterprise software makers will lose market share because of it. Proprietary software is on the decline. As of June 2018 there were 34 primarily open source companies that had valuations near or over $1 billion. This list includes companies like Redhat with a $30 billion valuation and MySQL AB with a $10 billion valuation. As of 2018 open source market as measured by the sum total of all open source company valuations is $104 billion. It’s startling to imagine that it’s possible to run a software company on code that was created for free.

Most cryptocurrency and blockchain projects like Bitcoin and Ethereum are also open source. If we add the open source market cap to the cryptocurrency market cap of $244,601,872,931 then we get $348,601,872,931. This number doesn’t factor out closed source blockchain projects or include every single form of revenue that is generated by companies who use open source but are not actually open source like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. It’s a figure to give an indication what a dollar value figure would look like.

The open source ethos sits at the bedrock of the collaborative economy and is an incredible source of power for it. It reflects a positive ideal. To work on something because you’re inspired by it not because you want to make money from it. Much of the collaboration in the collaborative economy comes from open source software and the ideas behind it.


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