The Success of Wikipedia. Models and Concepts

Scientific Essay, 2017
15 Pages, Grade: 2.1


Table of Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Resource Based View Model
2.1 VRIN
2.2 SWOT

3. Blue Ocean Strategy
3.1 Differentiation and low cost
3.2 Four-action strategy framework
3.3 The three strategy propositions

4. Chaos Theory

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

It is not possible nowadays to imagine the Internet without Wikipedia, which is the prime online information source for millions of people. It is undoubtedly one of the most popular websites in the world and accommodates a crucial number of readers and contributors. Beutler (2014) compares the Wikipedia to “the passion project of a volunteer community committed to developing a universal knowledge base”. Wikipedia has grown to be the sixth most popular website worldwide behind websites such as Google or Yahoo! (500 Global Sites Index, 2013). The infrastructure of Wikipedia enabled the contributors to build the largest and most up to date encyclopaedia in the world. Wilson &Likens (2015) pinpoint the accuracy of the website, which is similar to the traditional reference sources like for instance Encyclopaedia Britannica.

By using different models and concepts, this paper tries to find out the feasible reasons for its ultimate success. Based on the Harvard Business Review Case Study on Wikipedia, the Resource- Based View model is utilized, where the strategic capabilities of the Wikipedia are analysed. Also, this paper argues how Blue Ocean strategy can provide a sound explanation of the apparent strategic success of the most popular online encyclopaedia.

2. Resource- Based View Model

The Resource- Based View model (RBV) postulates that resources are valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable (VRIN) and can build a platform upon which firms may accomplish a competitive advantage (Brown, 2013; Callaway& Jagani, 2015). Resource-based view fundamentally tends to highlight that a possession of strategically useful, heterogeneous, and not replicated by competitors’ resources constitutes the resource position of the firm among rivalry companies (Apostolakis et al, 2012). Simon et al, (2012) gives example of Mercedes Benz car group as a company where strategic capabilities such as innovation, technical knowledge and quality of service were utilized to gain a competitive advantage.

2.1 VRIN


The greatest value provided by Wikipedia is its availability to anyone without any charge. The advantage is that Wikipedia is a free encyclopaedia and can be freely read without getting permission from any other party, therefore the users are able to access it anytime and share with others without any constrains. Wikipedia is being led by the main innovators and leaders hence it has become a global movement to free knowledge.


The technology, which Wikipedia uses in protecting the integrity of its articles is rare and unique, therefore if any inappropriate changes are implemented into Wikipedia’s articles, they are normally repaired within very short period of time. This is possible thanks to automatic tracking mechanisms, which exhibit any modification made by registered users, thus the integrity of the articles is preserved.


Wikipedia is most likely to be chosen as the main source of news and reference information when one carries out a keyword search on the well known engines today such as Google or Yahoo. It is very probable to find Wikipedia at the top of the list of recommended pages, which it is unlikely to happen as far as its competitors are concerned. Wikipedia aligns value, profit and people propositions around both differentiation and low cost, therefore this gives Wikipedia significant competitive advantage over other online encyclopaedias in the market.


There is a potential possibility of being replaced by another substitute, however what is not to be replaced is the esteem which is associated with the brand name, therefore Wikipedia is able to acquire new customers while at the same time retaining the old ones.

2.2 SWOT

In order to achieve a full usefulness of the Resource- Based View (RBV) approach, an individual ought to consider it as representing the strengths and weaknesses of a company. In additional way, the external environment could possibly play the space to form opportunities and threats for the organisation. In this regard, an informal environment of a SWOT analysis could possibly be formed (Nham and Hoang, 2011).

A SWOT (strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis can “serve as a catalyst to facilitate and guide the creation of marketing strategies that will produce desired results” (Santos & Laczniak, 2015). In the view of Addams & Alfred (2013), SWOT is extremely valuable and inevitable for decision making in estimating a company’s environment in fast changing, competitive and thoroughly diversified world. Although this framework can be criticised for instance for oversimplify more complex business situations (Strategic Direction, 2015), it is recommended for the organisations to utilizing SWOT to assess their wellness and establish the steps to improve operations in the future.


Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia, while in order to have full access to the articles of its competitors Britannica and Encarta, an individual is obligated to pay for it. Hence, this led to exit of Encarta as an online encyclopaedia and decrease in popularity of Britannica.

Wikipedia is one of the most popular online search engines today, therefore when someone performs a keyword search; it is most likely that the Wikipedia will be the website which will turn up.

The articles on the Wikipedia are available in over 270 different languages including smaller languages such as Maori or Upper Sorbian; hence many people from all over the world are able to read the articles in their own language, whereas the competitors offer information only in English. Thus, this gives Wikipedia a significant competitive advantage over its competitors.

Wikipedia has a strong sense of community among its virtual citizens. An extensive kindness campaigns are carried out in order to acknowledge the exceptional effort, skills and commitment shown by their particular contribution.

Wikipedia’s administrative overheads are very low thanks to team of dedicated volunteers. Thus, the online encyclopaedia is able to offer a great value to its customers.


Wikipedia is a non-profit website, which is run by significant number of volunteers, however very few of them have the experience and knowledge of a professional writer or editor, therefore this can lead to many mistakes and errors on the site.

One of the most crucial issues for Wikipedia is vandalism, which the site is likely to be susceptible to. Vandalism is easy to commit on Wikipedia, because anyone is able to edit the content of the website. For instance, on May 26, 2005, it was falsely written that John Seigenthaler- a retired journalist was a suspect in the assassination of both Kennedy and his brother, US President John F. Kennedy. This act of vandalism stayed for 132 days on the website before it was removed.

In contrast with traditional encyclopaedias, Wikipedia is not formally reviewed by the experts, thus any medical or scientific article might be written by an amateur and will not be reviewed or edited by any medical professional or scientist.

Wikipedia’s articles can vary in terms of quality, factuality or trustworthiness, therefore it is not recommended to use Wikipedia as the only source for a research purposes. As a matter of fact, most educational institutions do not regard the online encyclopaedia as a genuine, citable source at all.

Furthermore, because of the fact that the Wikipedia’s articles can be at different stages of editing, they are unusable and are not of encyclopaedic quality from the start.

The most popular online encyclopaedia has very large number of its contributors. They come from different background and their opinions differ from each other. Various editors form the content of each article therefore in the end a state of neutrality can be accomplished where no one’s point of view is reflected. However, this process can take a very long time.


Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, the numerous websites have emerged which can constitute a potential threat to the future of the website. The most popular competitors are: the Scholarpedia, Encyclopedia for Life or Similarly to Wikipedia, these websites are free of charge, yet what distinguish them from the most popular online encyclopaedia is the fact that articles have been approved by an actual scholars, thus its is much better free resource for research papers for students rather than Wikipedia.

Another problem comes from finding and keeping its contributors. The number of people writing and editing entries is shrinking. Hence, this can lead to a serious threat to the future of the organisation.

The below figure 2.2 shows the number of editors for the English-language version has decreased by a third in seven years:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.2. Active editors on Wikipedia

Source: The Economist (2014)

One of the most significant threats for the future of Wikipedia are change- resistant and innovation- averse communities who are “stuck in 2006 whereas the rest of the users in Internet are thinking about 2020 and the next three billion users” (Lih, 2015). Thus, the tensions might appear among the long-time editors, new editors or foundation employees which are very hard to resolve.


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The Success of Wikipedia. Models and Concepts
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MBA graduate Kat Szydlowska (Author), 2017, The Success of Wikipedia. Models and Concepts, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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