With Wikivoyage, Wikipedia makes foray into world of travel guides

Wikivoyage, a crowd-sourced travel site, is expected to officially launch on Jan. 15. 

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Wikimedia, the San Francisco non-profit behind Wikipedia, will officially launch a crowd-sourced travel site later this month. 

Wikivoyage, which has been in beta for a couple months now, will operate under the motto "the traveller comes first" – the idea being, the organizers of the site write, "that all our work should be guided towards serving the travellers who are our readers."

Travel-news hub Skift reports that the whole operation should go live by Jan. 15, although it may take a bit of time before Wikivoyage develops a comprehensive database of listings and reviews. 

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The site is currently a relatively bare-bones affair, with a substantial number of pages, from the Turks and Caicos Islands to Krasnoyarsk Krai, in Siberia, and a lot of blanks in the "itineraries" and "phrasebooks."

Of course, Wikipedia started slow, too, and is currently comprised of well over 4 million English-language articles. 

In a posting to the project page, Wikivoyage organizers stressed that they did not want to build a "Yellow Pages of restaurants, hotels, or bars for a city. City guides should certainly include information for travel-related companies, but these should be kept at a useful number." 

They also sought to distinguish Wikivoyage from advertising-heavy, super-glossy travel sites. 

"Being 'fair' does not necessarily mean being 'nice.' We have a mission to make (among other things) a reliable and complete travel guide," the organizers write, "and a travel guide that doesn't give qualitative information about the things it describes isn't reliable or complete. We need to call a spade a spade; if a restaurant is crowded, loud, and overpriced, we need to say so."

So does Wikivoyage have a chance to make a dent in the world of travel guides? Well, yes, says Sarah Mitroff of Wired, but it sure ain't going to be easy. 

"It’s a great notion, but Wikivoyage is coming late to the already crowded travel industry, and the non-profit has some well-funded and very smart competition to outmaneuver – everyone from Yelp, to TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Hipmunk and others," she writes. "No one wanted to get into the encyclopedia business when Wikipedia launched, but the travel industry is among the largest and most lucrative of any category online."

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