Wikipedia: Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability

Wikipedia: Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability

This is the eighth and final blog that will be discussed from Tim O’Reilly’s ‘Design Patterns and Business Models’. It will be about ‘Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability’. I will cover the Web 2.0 application, Wikipedia. I will also give an overview of Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability and how Wikipedia relates to this weeks pattern.

What is Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability?

Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability is another one of O’Reilly’s patterns that he uses in order to get his message across about Web 2.0 applications. O’Reilly states that ‘Scalability in Web 2.0 applies to business models as well as technology. Changes in cost, reusability, process, and strategy mean much more can be done for less. Therefore, adopt a scalable, cost-effective strategy encompassing business models, development models, and technology to deliver products to market faster and cheaper without sacrificing future growth’. Therefore ‘small is the new big’! The benefits of Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability include:

  • Faster time to market – Companies such as Wikipedia have used the Internet to reach a large audience (spreading the word about their product/service) very quickly as most people can connect to the Internet.
  • Faster ROI through reduced cost and time – The Internet has provided companies with a cost effective way of distributing/advertising their product/service and therefore has enabled companies to see a quick financial return.
  • Reduced risk of project and product failure – Using the Internet has enabled companies to spread the word about their product/service quickly and therefore has allowed consumers to learn about a new product/service that is out in the market.
  • Greater adaptability – Lightweight models provide companies with flexibility in adapting to service/product lines and therefore increasing their customer base.

One such example of a company that can be related directly to this Web 2.0 pattern is Wikipedia.

Wikipedia as a Lightweight Model…

Wikipedia was founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia where internet volunteers can access and make changes to Wikipedia articles without pay. Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference websites, attracting nearly 78 million visitors monthly as of 2010. As of today, Wikipedia has more than 3,638,298 articles in English and more than 17 million articles in over 270 languages.

Wikipedia is non-profit organisation with 35 employees and is the fifth most popular website in the world.  There is no doubt that Wikipedia has gone ‘viral’ over the years (mostly because of an internet crazed era). Wikipedia is hosted and funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation which also operates Wikipedia-related projects. The operation of Wikipedia depends on MediaWiki, a free and open source software platform written in PHP and built upon the MySQL database. This open source and scalable solution is supported by hundreds of servers across a number of countries.

As Wikipedia is a non-profit organisation, the company has opened their doors to donations and operate fund raisers in order to stay afloat and to provide the community a free to use online encyclopedia.

To watch Jimmy Wales’s full interview, please click here.


Business Insider. (2010). What Do Wikipedia’s 35 Employees Do?

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0?

Wikipedia. (2011). Wikipedia.

Wikipedia. (2011). Wikipedia:About.


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  1. #1 by Jihye Jessica Kim on May 19, 2011 - 12:20 am

    Yes, but Wikipedia was mentioned and discussed at the lecture. What else do you think belong this pattern? I introduced ‘’, have you use this? If no, check this out, it’s light and easy to use 🙂 By the way thanks for the good article!

    • #2 by bkb90 on May 19, 2011 - 12:38 am

      Hi Jessica,
      Sorry, but I’m not too sure on what you mean ‘what else do you think belong this pattern?’ Do you mean, what other applications I think are related to this pattern? In regards to Craiglist, I have never used it before but I have heard about it. And Craiglist was also mentioned in the lecture.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. #3 by DJ on May 19, 2011 - 12:35 am

    Hi bkb90,

    You have explained what ‘Lightweight Models and Cost Effective Scalability’ are and waht Wikipedia is.

    However, I cannot see the correlation between the two. Could you be a bit more concise and provide examples of how Wikipedia is a lightweight model?

    Also, how has Wikipedia been able to cost-effectively scale up? What are the future plans for Wikipedia and how have they considered scalability in relation to their future plans?

    Feel free to checkout my blog:

    twitter: dj91

    • #4 by bkb90 on May 19, 2011 - 9:02 pm

      Hi dj,
      Wikipedia is a lightweight model in the sense that, when they first started off, there were only two people involved, the founders. Of course, overtime, the company developed into one of the largest reference websites and now Wikipedia has only 35 employees. This is what ‘doing more with less’ is really all about. Wikipedia, didn’t go and employ a bunch of people to manage the content(that’s what the community is there for), but instead to keep an eye on the development process of the company.
      In regards to the cost scalability, the operation of Wikipedia is funded through MediaWiki and like I said in my post, fund raisers and donations from people.
      And in regards to the future plans, I was unable to find any reliable information on the future plans so that is why I did not add it into my blog.

      Hope this has answered your questions.

      • #5 by DJ on May 20, 2011 - 11:21 am

        Thank you for the insights. However, I still think that expansion of the company does not substantiate a lightweight model.

        In my opinion, Wikipedia would be a lightweight model since it uses a platform which in not resource-intensive (the internet) instead of physical resources (such as printing information into new encyclopedias). There are many other characteristics, but this would be one of the main elements.

        Cost-effectiveness would also interrelate with lightweight models, since Wikipedia uses existing technology models to provide access for individual’s information needs.

        This is my opinion in short. What do you think?

        Feel free to checkout my blog:

        twitter: dj91

  3. #6 by Nicholas Burge on May 19, 2011 - 10:42 am

    Excellent example here bkb90!
    Great you see you have backed up your info with facts and figures! I liked the structure of the blog, as in you introduced the concept in depth then went on the talk about wikipedia as an example. Would have been good to include links to competing websites?

    please comment back at

    • #7 by bkb90 on May 19, 2011 - 9:08 pm

      Hi Nicholas,
      Thanks for the comment and suggestion about competing websites. I did want to add some competitors like WikiLeaks but I felt like they didn’t relate to the pattern and so that is why I did not compare Wikipedia with any of its competitors.
      Thanks again.

  1. Should Wikipedia advertise? | unitedtribes

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