I love the idea of WikiTravel. What better idea than a user-generated travel site? Information is only as good as it is independent and kept up to date, so a community of travelers who want to share information has a lot of potential.
Apparently, in its early years, the project met with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately it seems to have run into trouble. The site was sold to a commercial operator. The community has grown tired of the poor service they have been receiving from this company, and the way Wikitravel has become rather crowded by advertisements. It still has 7 million visitors a month, however, according to the operators, even while the community of volunteers has declined.
As a result of the conflict between owners and volunteers, the administrators are planning to ‘fork’ the site and move to the Wikimedia Foundation. Since the content is all on a Creative Commons license, there is nothing to stop the fork, except the burden of the work.
There’s a simple lesson here, which is don’t exploit your volunteers. They’re building the value of the content and need to be treated with respect. It’s interesting that they have simply been ‘milked’ for several years: why does a commercial operator make such a poor business decision?
Hard to say, of course, although the fact that it was an acquisition suggests the owner had little interest in anything other than short term revenue. I’ll watch with interest to see if the move to Wikimedia helps the project.