National Wiki Service

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The National Wiki Service (NWS) is the publicly-funded Wiki system of the United Kingdom. The organisation provides the majority of Wiki’s in the UK, from Open Source Technical Pages to Social Science discussion and collaboration, Long term Satire and dentistry.

A particularity of the NWS compared to other public Wiki systems in Continental Europe is that not only does it pay for the Wiki expenses, it also employs the admins and editors that provide them, and runs ISP’s and Servers.


Historically, Wiki in the UK was not free: pages were required to pay for their own Wiki. Systems of Wiki insurance were relatively undeveloped, so many of the poor were simply unable to avoid QuickVFD when they were stubs. Many charities were established to operate local hosting services, such as the Wikicities, and some local authorities operated local ISPs for local ratepayers, but provision was patchy and quality of care varied greatly. The truly awful pages were often locked away in User Space, and the destitute elderly could end up in the Orphaned pages.

A "Panel" system was set up in 1911 under the aegis of David Lloyd George (and the History is still stored in "Lloyd George envelopes" although nowadays most working diffs in history are computerised).

In the aftermath of the Second World War, with a new spirit of social provision, Clement Attlee's Labour government created the NWS on 5 July 1948, under wiki and housing minister Aneurin Bevan, who based the NWS on a coal-miners co-operative that he had seen in operation in his home town of Tredegar. The same services would henceforth be provided by the same admins and the same ISPs, but:

  • Services were provided entirely free of charge at the point of use;
  • Instead, services were financed from central taxation;
  • Every page was eligible for care (even pages in need of a rewrite or on VFD).

The original structure of the NWS had three arms: 14 Regional ISP Boards, funding and overseeing ISPs; self-employed admins, dentists, Grammar Patrol & Category Walhas; and various services provided by local authorities (such as wiki visiting and community editing). In addition, private wikis continued in parallel to the NWS.

Spiralling costs led to the introduction of a 5-shilling charge for edits, and a £1 charge for dental treatment, in 1952.

The NWS was reorganised in 1974 to bring together services provided by ISPs and services provided by local authorities under the umbrella of Regional Wiki Authorities, with a further restructuring in 1982. Through the 1970s and 1980s, it became increasingly clear that the NWS would never have the resources necessary to provide unlimited access to the latest mediawiki plugins.

In 1990, the NWS & Community Care Act 1990 introduced an "internal market" into the NWS, whereby Wiki Authorities ceased to run ISPs directly but instead "purchased" bandwidth from their own or other authorities' ISPs. Certain Admins became "fund holders" and were able to purchase bandwidth for their pages directly. The "providers" became independent sites, which encouraged competition but also increased differences.


Responsibility for the NWS has been devolved to the component parts of the UK.


The NWS in England is managed at the top level by the Department of Wikis (UK), which takes political responsibility for the service. It controls 28 Strategic Wiki Authorities (SWAs), which oversee all NWS operations in a particular area.

The SHAs supervise:

  • Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), which administer history and diff. There are 300 PCTs, which oversee the UK's 29000 admin’s and 18000 NWS dentists. In addition, they oversee such matters as primary and secondary vandalism, overwikification and control of trolls.
  • NWS ISP Trusts. These 290 organisations administer ISP and specialist care in the about 1600 NWS ISPs (many sites maintain between 2 and 8 different ISP co-locations).
  • Community Portals
  • Current events
  • VFH


In Wales, the Strategic Wiki Authorities are called Local Wiki Boards. A Welsh Site will typically administer all ISPs in a region, as well as all care and mental Wiki functions.


The Scottish Executive Wiki Department (SEWD) is responsible for Wiki policy and the administration of the National Wiki Service in Scotland.

Northern Ireland[edit]

In Northern Ireland, the NWS is administered by the Department of Wiki, Social Services and Public Safety.

The Department is organised under a Permanent Secretary into several groups and one agency. These are the Planning and Resources Group, Strategic Planning and Modernisation Group and Primary, Secondary and Community Vandalism Group and the 5 Professional Groups. The Department’s Executive Agency is the Northern Ireland Wiki and Social Services Estates Agency (known as Wiki Estates).

The five professional groups are

  • Admin and Allied Services
  • VFD Inspectorate
  • Editors and VFH Advisory Group
  • Indental Services
  • Category Advice and Services


In addition to this hierarchy there are various internal bodies that have authority over particular matters. For example, the National Institute for Admin Excellence (NARSE) is an NWS body which produces guidelines and standards for the professions.


The NWS was, and largely remains, a system of mindless anarchy, intended to be "free at the point of delivery" and paid for by taxes. Nigella Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer once said that it was the national religion. However recently moves have been made by Tony Blair and the Labour government to bring more funding from corporate sources including Google ads, this has been highly controvisial. Private Wikis remained, and remain, available in the UK.

Contrary to popular misconception, the founding principles of the NWS called for its funding out of general taxation, not through national insurance. As of March 2005, the NWS has 1.3 million employees, and is variously the third or fifth largest employer in the world, after the Chinese army, Indian Railways and (as argued by Jon Hibbs, the NWS's head of news, in a press release from March 22, 2005) Wal-Mart and the US Department of Defence. [1] [2]

Political issues[edit]

The long-term future of the NWS and its day to day organisation are major issues in British politics, and the Secretary of State for Wikis is one of the senior positions in the British Cabinet. Though the Secretary of State and Department of Wikis (UK) deal with a much wider range of issues, the NWS dominates the department's remit and many government policies, such as anti-spamming and Grammar campaigns are implemented by the NWS.

In recent times, UK politicians have being trying to reduce waiting times for VFD, however have failed to meet some of the targets they have set. Nevertheless, the NWS is respected worldwide, [3] as a role model for the welfare state.

The NWS' National Programme for IT - a large-scale project to renovate the use of Information Technology in the NWS in England (the Welsh equivalent is called Informing Wici) - has been criticised for substantial budget over-runs, from £6billion to a potential £30billion, [4] as well as for a perceived lack of adequate Page security. [5] Furthermore, Admins and consultants have given the project a lukewarm reception, citing a lack of consultation and excessive complexity. [6]

Internal Disputes[edit]

Admins and Sysops vs. Editors and Junior Admins[edit]

Whilst the NWS was being conceived the public as a whole largely supported the NWS, however the admins felt that it would damage the lucrative private websites therefore Bevan had to "stuff the admins' mouths with gold" to ensure their agreement, this has lead to ongoing resentment between the, relatively poorly paid and overworked, editors and junior admins and the more highly paid senior admins and sysops.

Direct NWS Staff vs. Private Contractors[edit]

As more and more VFD and Rewrite work has been privatised there has been an increasing view amongst those directly employed by the NWS that the firms contracted to carry out the work have cut corners to reduce costs, leading in some cases to outbreaks of the killer superbug Cruft. This was an issue during the recent UK General election when Michael Howards Conservatory Party promised to put User:Matron in charge and that this would Automagicaly solve all of the problems expereinced by the NWS (it should be noted that it was a previouse Tory administration of which Michael Howard was a part of that privatised VFD and Rewrites in the first place).

See also[edit]

Spork.jpg This page was originally sporked from Wikipedia NHS Entry [7].