Earlier this month, the wiki hosting company Fandom has taken over several game sitesincluding giant bomb and GameSpot, in an acquisition worth $50 million. And that exorbitant sale price, coupled with what the website calls “questionable staffing decisions” at the company, led Zelda Wiki to free itself from “corporate consolidation” and assert its independence from vis-a-vis Fandom.
Opened in 2005 and independent until its transfer to Gamepedia hosting in 2017, the Zelda Wiki is one of the largest fan-run gaming wikis. With thousands of game entries across the franchise, you could spend days or weeks perusing the digital encyclopedia and probably not finish it all. It’s my go-to resource when looking for information on a specific enemy or weapon in Nintendo’s popular franchise, and it hosts 11,199 articles. However, you will now need to visit a brand new website if you have bookmarked and/or frequented the old Zelda wiki.
Staff on site announced on Twitter this week that, “after several months of preparation”, the website is now completely independent of Fandom or any other entity.
“For over a decade, from its inception in 2005 to its transfer to Gamepedia in 2017, the Zelda Wiki was an entirely independent site,” the wiki’s EIC wrote. “Even after the transfer and subsequent acquisition of Gamepedia by Fandom, Inc., the site has sought to continue its mission of curating an independent, high-quality fan-run editorial wiki. However, we have come to believe that these ideals are incompatible with Fandom.
There was a reason for such a scathing statement. Citing Fandom’s “recent takeovers and questionable personnel decisions”, Zelda Wiki staff said they wanted to “protect the internet from corporate consolidation” and “hegemonic control”. As such, the team moved the wiki to a new homeyet Fandom’s is still operational.
Reactions to the news have been overwhelmingly positive online. Several people have called it a big win for the Zelda Wiki, while others are eagerly awaiting less ads and better layout on the site. Even the Fallout Wiki’s Twitter account, one of the few to publicly feud with Fandom over intrusive site videos and ads, congratulated the Zelda Wiki team to break with the company. In general, the public is wary of Fandom’s growing influence on fan-run wikis that have provided useful free resources to the community on major franchises. Thus, there is now even shared resources for alternatives to Wikis Fandom, and some encouragement in the comments to this announcement for more Wikis to do the same. Although independent wikis exist, over the years Fandom has become the most dominant website when people search for certain topics on Google.
In Discord messages with My box, Community Staff ModdedInkling, said the old Fandom wiki will “continue to be updated” by a few volunteers who have chosen to remain there. Just about everyone, however, will move to the new website domain. ModdedInkling also explained what this independence means for staff.
“Being ‘editorially independent’ means having full creative control over the content of the wiki according to one’s own policies, as opposed to Fandom’s policies,” ModdedInkling said. “This also includes the overall appearance of the wiki (UI, templates, etc.), which has been one of the main topics discussed by many independent wikis that split from Fandom. Another topic of interest is avoiding mandatory censorship. Some wikis also have socio-political and ethical content that is often limited by Fandom, but deemed relevant by the community.
ModdedInkling extrapolated on the nature of Fandom’s alleged censorship. He said that while nothing was blocked on the Wikia Zelda (as far as he knows, anyway), there were a few changes made to the entries after posting to other wikis.
“Basically, Fandom’s policies can invoke a level of censorship on certain sensitive topics, even if relevant to a work of fiction, if deemed contrary to their policy,” ModdedInkling said. “Sometimes that may mean changing his information as well, even if it’s less specific. This can happen across a variety of topics, such as discussions involving retroactively changing a character’s traits, even if it was historically inaccurate to change them.
ModdedInkling brought up a case where Fandom’s policies prevented making available what they consider to be accurate information. On Wookieepediathe Star Wars Digital Encyclopedia, there would have been complications changing the name of someone who later came out as trans.
“There was some debate about the naming conventions of someone later identifying as trans,” ModdedInkling said. “The mandate was to retroactively change any of the displayed names for the person or character, even if that was not what they were called at the time. I don’t remember if it was a real person or a fictional character. This did not cause them to branch off, but it was a concern NIWA had in potential instances involving character pronouns like Vivian’s Paper Mario: The Millennium GateSheikh of Ocarina of timeor Vila de breath of the wild.”
ModdedInkling clarified the example to My box, saying it’s not representative of his beliefs or the rest of the Zelda Wiki team. He noted Nintendo’s Independent Wiki Alliance, a network of other wikis for Nintendo games, aims to “handle sensitive topics with care to avoid any form of misrepresentation”. This, he noted, aligns with the ideals of the Zelda Wiki teams.
My box has contacted Fandom for comment.
The Zelda Wiki is only the most recent digital encyclopedia to split from its parent company, and the third to split from Fandom specifically in recent memory. Earlier this year, the team behind Terraria Wiki announced on Steam that it will host a new site separate from Fandom. Meanwhile, the Runescape Wiki became independent years ago in reply to corporate mandates forcing videos to autoplay in the posts. The Zelda wiki can now be found in the NIWA databasewhich includes other independent, volunteer-run websites, such as Bulbapedia (the digital encyclopedia dedicated to all things Pokemon) and SmashWiki.
Updated, 10/21/22, 6:30 PM ET: Added a clarifying statement from ModdedInkling.
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