About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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June 03, 2005

WikiHow - Thanks, But No Thanks

Posted by Ernest Miller

Wikipedia is one of the great success stories of the internet and will, likely, play an even greater role as it matures. Success, of course, breeds imitation. Recently, I came across a pitch for (no link love for them), which describes itself thus:

wikiHow is a collaborative writing project to build the world's largest how-to manual. With your contributions, we can create a free resource that helps people by offering clear, concise solutions to the problems of everyday life. Please join us by writing a new page, or editing a page that someone else has started.
Yeah, except that, unlike Wikipedia, their Wiki isn't under the GNU Free Documentation License. In other words, they're basically asking people to slave away for them for free. Thanks, but no thanks.

Extra bonus points for them not mentioning this difference when they note the differences between WikiHow and Wikipedia: "wikiHow differs from Wikipedia in several important respects:"

  • Neutral Point of View not Required
  • Multiple Methods and Pages
And... I guess the GNU Free Documentation License isn't an important difference. Nice try, guys.

UPDATE 4 July 2005 1415PT

WikiHow has now switched entirely to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License: WikiHow Responds to Criticism - Goes Creative Commons. Good job guys.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: News


1. joe on June 3, 2005 03:29 PM writes...

No Creative Commons license either? That's too bad.

I can tell you as one with experience as a licensing volunteer with the FSF, there are no larger headaches in licensing discussions than those centered around the GFDL. It's a horrible license and causes tons of pain when things are used in downstream derivatives. So the lack of a license is troubling... not necesssarily the lack of the GFDL.

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2. Ross Mayfield on June 3, 2005 03:59 PM writes...

I'll blog all about this later, as I have been following eHow's transition to wikiHow, but did you read this?

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3. Ernest Miller on June 3, 2005 07:02 PM writes...

No, missed that. Doesn't really make a lot of sense however.

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4. Gary Meany on June 10, 2005 07:38 AM writes...

In other words, they're basically asking people to slave away for them for free.

What? Wikipedia is paying people now?

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5. Ernest Miller on June 10, 2005 07:47 AM writes...

No, but they aren't the only ones who can make use of the work. The difference between WikiHow and Wikipedia is that WikiHow asks you to give information only for their benefit, essentially, and Wikipedia asks you to give information for the benefit of all. So, yes, Wikipedia asks you to slave away, but not just for them.

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6. Jack H. on June 11, 2005 07:19 PM writes...

Please don't give up on wikiHow yet. The wikiHow community has been considering adopting a copyleft license for some time now. I am personally optimistic that we will adopt one in the near future. I will return and post more news as things unfold.

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