Blue Ocean Strategy
Making a Blue Ocean
Strategic Move that
The Case of Wikipedia
This case was written by Katrina Ling, Institute Executive Fellow of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute, under the supervision of W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, Professors at INSEAD. Special thanks to Dr Zunaira Munir of Strategize Blue for her research on Wikipedia. It is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation.
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Blue Ocean Strategy Institute
How to Create a Blue Ocean That Discourages Imitation
If someone were to test your knowledge of geography, entertainment or the US government, and you had access to the internet, what is the first action you would most likely take in response to the following questions?
‘What is the highest mountain in the world?’
‘How many 750ml bottles of wine make a rehoboam?’
‘What do the first three digits in a US Social Security Number represent?’
Most likely, you would type in the keywords such as ‘highest mountain’, ‘rehoboam’, or ‘social security number’ to perform an online search using Google, Yahoo or an alternative search engine. The first answer returned on the top of the first page will typically be an entry from the English version of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. For example, Wikipedia’s top placement on Google using keywords ‘social security number’ beats out even the official US Social Security Online website whose entry is ranked second on the same page.
When Apple launched its new iPad product on January 27, 2010, the Wikipedia article named ‘iPad’ was edited 745 times by 281 volunteer contributors within the first 24 hours, from 8:52 am that day to 8:13 am the next day, according to log entries in the article’s history file. Apple fans and consumer product experts swarmed over the iPad article on Wikipedia to provide real-time updates as more information became available on this highly anticipated product unveiling.
In fact, if one performs a keyword search on any of the popular online search engines today, Wikipedia will likely be returned as a top source of news and reference information. The Guardian describes the Wikipedia phenomenon as follows:1
“Search at Google.com on evolution or Iraq or Aids or Gordon Brown, and the same site will appear at the top of the organic list of results: Wikipedia. Alter your search into one for John Keats or Muhammad Ali or Christianity or platypus or loneliness, and the same thing will happen. Pacific Ocean? Wikipedia. Catherine de Medici? Wikipedia. Human brain? Wikipedia. In fact, if you Google any person, place or thing today, you're almost guaranteed to find Wikipedia at or near the top of the list of recommended pages.”
The Online Encyclopaedia Industry
Launched by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales on January 15, 2001, Wikipedia was hardly the first offering in the online encyclopedia industry. Microsoft Corp. had introduced Encarta.com in 1993 followed by Britannica.com in 1995, the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the UK publisher of knowledge and learning products since 1768. While a portion of the articles on Britannica.com and Encarta.com are available for free, to access their full articles with expanded reference...
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