sailboatWikivoyage pulled out of the port this morning, embarking on a journey to provide free, community-generated, travel guides around the world.

Wikivoyage is the Wikimedia Foundation‘s 12th official project. There are currently 50,000 articles in the database in nine languages. Information includes everything from geography to cultural mores to restaurant tips, and is edited by a group of 200 volunteers.

Travelers have a tremendous reservoir of resources at their fingertips whether they prefer to navigate using physical guidebooks, online applications, or the recommendations of local shop owners. However, it can be difficult to find middle-ground between the canonized recommendations in guidebooks and the chaos that is community-generated review sites like TripAdvisor. It seems to me that Wikivoyage could bridge that gap.

I decided to test out Wikivoyage for myself by exploring the Thailand wiki. The page opens with an overview of the destination that sums up a few key points, such as the climate, fun-seeking atmosphere, and economic disparity. After a quick history and political lesson, the Wiki describes the various regions and then delves into practical tips for getting around, finding accommodation, and staying safe and healthy. I was impressed by how detailed some of the information was, including break-downs of different bus types, dialects, and signature dishes.

While comprehensive, the Wiki did not present me with any information I could not have found in a Lonely Planet book. Then I dove into the ‘itinerary’ section and began to see how Wikivoyage could become a valuable asset for travelers. One of the problems with traditional guidebooks is they come out once every few years and information can quickly becomes obsolete. Another issue is that everyone uses the same books which can make it difficult to forge a unique path.

In the itinerary section, users can post their own tours with their own recommendations. People can edit and update as needed, transforming the collective body of wisdom into a dynamic beast that offers something different for each user. The content is published under the creative commons and eschews commercial agenda, aspiring to create a global community of volunteer collaborators that make the world a more navigable place.

“As contributors to Wikivoyage, we work hard to create high-quality¬†content, written by travelers, for travelers, in their own language,”¬†said administrator Peter Fitzgerald in a statement. “We’re very excited to be part of the Wikimedia community, and we invite travelers to join us in creating an independent, non-commercial, online travel guide for the world. We are confident that it will become the number one travel resource on the web.”

Wikivoyage was first conceived in 2006 as Wikitravel. It operated under parent company Internet Brands until last year when the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees approved a proposal from some of the contributors to migrate the content onto Wikimedia servers. Wikivoyage was in beta for the past couple months, until today. Its launch coincides with the 12th anniversary of Wikipedia, which as founded on January 15th, 2001.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, an online community-generated encyclopedia with more than 24 million articles in its database. According to comScore Media Metrix, Wikimedia projects receive more than 483 million unique visitors a month contributed by a global volunteer community of around 80,000 people.

Read the statement from the Wikimedia Foundation.