According to Wales — who was quick to stress he was speaking in a purely personal capacity — set-ups such as the iTunes App Store can act as a “chokepoint that is very dangerous.” He said such it was time to ask if the model was “a threat to a diverse and open ecosystem” and made the argument that “we own [a] device, and we should control it.”
Speaking at an event in Bristol, England in the week of Wikipedia’s 10th anniversary, Wales argued that many of the concerns over net neutrality were hypothetical and didn’t pose an immediate danger. While he noted the entire issue was complicated, and that his own views would be “policy wonky” (apparently meaning they wouldn’t necessarily blindly follow a strict principle regardless of the specific issue), he said elements of the campaign for net neutrality were “highly overblown” and centered on fears about what might happen rather than what is happening.
Wales answered questions on the topics after giving a presentation on Wikipedia’s past, present and future. He cited a tweet from a teacher who noted “Yesterday I asked one of my students if she knew what an encyclopedia is, and she said ‘Is it something like Wikipedia?’”
According to Wales, examples such as this mean that “the quality of Wikipedia is an important cultural issue.” But he stressed that university students should not be citing Wikipedia in essays and dissertations — or for that matter, any encyclopedia.
Noting that 87% of Wikipedia contributors are male, with an average age of 26 and double the rate of PhD holders of the general population, Wales said one of the major issues for the site going forward was to extend the diversity of people taking part. He said one way of achieving that would be to make the editing system easier to use, getting away from the current tendency for contributors to be confronted with mark-up coding: in particular, he conceded Wikipedia’s syntax for table layout was “a nightmare.”
But Wales also stressed Wikipedia will stick to its core purpose. He noted that adding features such as e-mail or chat functions might increase the number of visitors to the site, but while that is the goal of commercial services, it wouldn’t necessarily improve the quality of Wikipedia’s content, which he believes should be “[Encyclopedia]Britannica or better.”