Lunyr: A peer reviewed alternative to Wikipedia
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Wikipedia is one of the internet’s great success stories. But it is far from perfect. The world’s favourite encyclopedia is massively larger than anything which came before it and freely available to anyone in the world. But it also regularly hosts inaccurate information, is vulnerable to censorship, and despite being famously created and edited by its users it still retains a high degree of centralized control.
Now, a new project is building an alternative to Wikipedia on top of Ethereum, aiming to solve these problems while at the same time adding a range of new features. The name of the project is ‘Lunyr’ (pronounced ‘Lunar’), and they are currently gearing up for a crowdsale to fund development.
When is advertising OK?
Wikipedia has always made a point of avoiding advertising. They have made it a core part of their brand to show that the information they provide is in no way influenced by corporate interests. This is important for a centrally controlled information source, which even with the best intentions can easily become captured, corrupted and abused by powerful groups which control its funding.
Through further decentralized (Wikipedia’s contribution process is already decentralized, but publishing, funding, and management are not) this problem can be eliminated.
In a system such as the one being planned by Lunyr, the publishing process is entirely decentralized, while contributions, reviews, dispute resolution and so on are all handled automatically through Ethereum’s smart contract technology. Perhaps most importantly: so is the funding and economic management system. While a central entity still remains, as the primary source of software development, they do not control the system any more than Bitcoin is controlled by its developers.
By eliminating the potential for financial interests to influence content, Lunyr can safely introduce advertising to its platform. This has the potential to massively increase the available resources. Although Wikipedia generates enough donations to keep itself afloat, it is leaving a lot of money on the table by refusing to include advertising. Independent estimates have suggested that the potential advertising revenue they could generate is somewhere between $100 million and $1.6 billion per year*. That’s a lot of money.
Economic incentives and peer review
By introducing an advertising model Lunyr aims to capitalize on some of this potential revenue – and then to use that money to create a more reliable and accurate alternative to Wikipedia.
Instead of relying entirely on volunteers, contributors to the Lunyr encyclopedia will be rewarded for their work. They will also be expected to earn these rewards by providing peer review for other people’s contributions. This peer review process, which will aim to select reviewers with relevant knowledge by examining their submission history, is being designed to tackle the main flaw which Wikipedia suffers from: inaccurate information.
Contributors will earn two different tokens for their work: contribution and honour tokens. Contribution tokens will be used to calculate an individual’s reward in LUN, the monetary token which underpins the systems internal economy. Honour tokens, which cannot be transferred to other users, will be used as the foundation of a reputation system that can be used for dispute resolution.
Advertisers wishing to reach out to Lunyr’s users must purchase LUN tokens, therefore giving them a financial value. When LUN tokens are spent by advertisers they go into a pot, 15% of which is paid to the Lunyr team for further development and maintenance, with the rest paid out to anyone who has earned contribution tokens.
An Encyclopedia for machines
Lunyr’s ambitions do not stop at providing an alternative to Wikipedia as it is today. They also aim to build a range of more advanced features, based largely around a proposed ‘API’ enabling other software systems to easily access the Encyclopaedia’s information.
The possible applications of this range include:
- Artificial intelligence: Allowing systems such as Siri or Amazon Echo to access information on behalf of their users.
- Virtual Reality: Creating a database of virtual worlds for people to explore.
- Augmented Reality: Allowing apps, such as those in smart glasses, to access information on physical objects and display it as an overlay for anybody viewing that object and wishing to know more.
The initial supply of LUN tokens will be sold in a crowdsale to raise money to fund development.
This sale will take place on March 29th 2017 using Ethereum and will sell LUN tokens at a rate of 44 per Ether.
A minimum of 25,000 Ether must be raised for the sale to be considered a success, while a maximum cap of 250,000 Ether has been put in place to prevent over-funding (NOTE: These figures have changed since I first published this article due to the rising price of Ether). The number of LUN issued at launch will depend on the amount of Ether raised.
More information about the Lunyr project can be found on their website: https://lunyr.com/
The full details of the crowdsale can be found in the whitepaper: https://github.com/Lunyr/Lunyr/blob/master/Lunyr_White_Paper_ENG.pdf
*see whitepaper link above