Fans of Wikipedia, rejoice: It's about to get even easier to gain access to the site's articles.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which manages the Wikipedia website, announced Friday, Feb. 22 that it will begin delivering its articles to users via text messages.
The move is an attempt to serve users in emerging markets who can't afford data charges and don't have widespread access to smartphones or the Internet. Individuals will be able to text Wikipedia through standard SMS or USSD messaging, and the website will text them back with the article requested.
"We're very excited about delivering Wikipedia via text, which we expect to roll out within the next few months," wrote Wikimedia's Head of Mobile Kul Takanao Wadha in a blog post. "With the program, users will send a text request to Wikipedia and, within seconds, they will get the article to their phone."
The project is being funded by a $600,000 grant from the nonprofit Knight Foundation, which strives to promote quality journalism and innovations in media.
Non-English readership for Wikipedia has grown by more than 400 percent in the last six months, so the company believes the new service is integral to making information available to as many people as possible. Of the top 25 countries that use mobile devices to access the site, 22 of them are in developing countries, and eight are in Africa.
"The human spirit craves access to free information," said Wadha. "Indeed, I firmly believe that access to free knowledge should be a universal human right. News and knowledge change lives for the better. They always have."
"From the beginning of the Wikimedia movement, and more broadly across the free knowledge movement, the goal has been to break down the digital divide, and render barriers to knowledge obsolete. There's no better time than now to make gigantic inroads in that quest. "