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Wikia deletes CEO Gil Penchina

Jimmy Wales and Gil Penchina in better times in 2010
Jimmy Wales and Gil Penchina in better times in 2010
Tim Bartel, released under terms of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

Wikia, known by many as the for-profit branch of Wikipedia, announced after market trading on October 12 the replacement of its CEO Gil Penchina with Craig Palmer, the former chief of Sony-owned Gracenote. Co-founded in 2004 by the lesser co-founder of Wikipedia as an attempt to "commercialize the hell" out of the world's most unaccountable encyclopedia, Wikia has been struggling the past two years to gain audience. According to, Wikia began 2010 as the 210th most popular website in the world. It is currently stuck in practically the same position, ranking 213th in popularity this week.

Penchina's time at the helm of Wikia, Inc. was marred with several mishaps. There was the embarrassing hosting of a "squirtage" wiki. There was the infamous and utter failure of Wikia Search to be the "Google Killer" it was touted to be. Co-founder Jimmy Wales had even told a reporter that they were still "cranking away" on the project, mere days before it would be shut down and its employees fired. (Examiner reported that Wales owes Penchina a personal loan of $30,000.) More recently, there was a large insurrection of several Wikia communities to take their content from Wikia to sites that wouldn't load obnoxious advertising throughout their volunteered work. One reputation analyst had sagely predicted in July 2010 that Penchina would not last until 2013 at Wikia, a prediction made true over a year ahead of its deadline.

Jimmy Wales frequently notes that if Wikipedia is the set of encyclopedias in the library, then Wikia is "the rest of the library". As recently as September 2006, eighty percent of the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees seats were dedicated to high-ranking Wikia employees and a co-founder of, Jimmy Wales' prior business venture. Embedded throughout Wikipedia are over 28,000 web links that point directly to pages, which is one way to "commercialize the hell" out of Wikipedia. It is interesting, then, to look at how Wikia's older sister project Wikipedia portrays Wikia's new CEO. While Wikipedia doesn't have a biography (yet) about Craig Palmer, there is an extensive article that discusses the Gracenote licensing controversy that erupted a couple of years prior to Palmer's arrival at the music classification company. There is some logic that in May 2011 Palmer quietly left a company that had capitalized heavily on the freely-authored contributions of countless volunteers, only to land in October 2011 at a company that similarly exploits the willing crowdsourcing efforts of volunteers who don't care (or perhaps don't understand) that their donations of content financially benefit only the 125 or so employees and investors in Wikia, Inc.

Why does Wikipedia focus so obsessively on Gracenote's supposed "controversy" over licensing? Steve Scherf, the Co-Founder and Chief Architect of Gracenote thinks that they:

...may be confusing [the CD database's server source code] with the *data*, which is another story altogether. The facts there are also not in dispute, to those who bother to check into them. Most folks don't bother. They'd just rather gripe.

Along with Palmer, a new SVP of Marketing is joining Wikia. Jennifer Betka has previous experience with several firms that have flirted with failure or bankrupcy, such as America Online, Veoh, Sirius XM, and the Los Angeles Times. Here is Betka discussing how her cape breaks the wind.

Good luck, Wikia.


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