Wikipedia, the crowdsourced internet encyclopedia, is by far the most popular encyclopedia on the Internet, according to Web tracking firm Alexa. It probably doesn’t hurt Wikipedia’s popularity that the website is entirely free to use, either, although it routinely solicits donations.
That said, Wikipedia’s website isn’t exactly known for its striking design. Would you be willing pay a small sum to use a prettier version of the same content optimized for your iPad or iPhone?
Friends of the Web, a startup company based in Balitmore, MD, made up of four childhood friends turned Web software developers, thinks that you might.
They’re planning on releasing a paid “Wikipedia Reader” iOS app in Apple’s App Store within the next two months. No final price has been determined.
“Our app gives you a visual history of Wikipedia,” said Andy Mangold, a co-founder of and designer at Friends of the Web, in a telephone interview with TPM.
The goal is to further facilitate the experience of diving deep into a Wikipedia browsing session, following the links to other strange and fascinating knowledge within the encyclopedia.
“It shows how articles are connected, and draws a map between them, it’s a more interesting way to explore the resource that is Wikipedia,” Mangold continued about his app.
While that might not sound like much without any visual material to refer to, Mangold is confident that users will enjoy and pay to download the new app in droves, even though there are already a number of other Wikipedia reader apps in the App Store, including an official free one.
And he’s got some recent evidence to help inspire confidence: Friends of the Web’s “Jittergram” photo editing app for the iPhone, which allows users to quickly create their own animated GIFs using any two photos, crossed 100,000 active users recently, within the its first week of release, after being featured as the App Store’s “New and Noteworthy” front page section.
Both the success of Jittergram, which was whipped together in a weekend hackathon in New York, and Friends of the Web’s hopes for its Wikipedia app, speak to the company’s underlying philosophy to “make the Web more beautiful,” in the words of Mangold.
“Pretty much everything that can be done has been done already,” Mangold told TPM. “Now it’s all about taking ideas and plugging them together and coming up with the right combination. That’s why you’re seeing new incarnations of things that have been around forever.”
Friends of the Web, unlike many startups, hasn’t taken any venture capital funding, preferring to do contract work for other companies on the side to raise funds to pursue its own ideas.