Wikipedia: Innovative Encyclopedia

History: Wiki plus Encyclopedia

January 15, 2001 marked the date of formal launch of Wikipedia, a project emanating from Nupedia (an online English encyclopedia, of which Jimmy Wales was CEO of parent company Bomis and Larry Sanger was editor-in-chief of Nupedia). Wales reportedly defined the idea of a publicly editable encyclopedia, and Sanger reportedly suggested using wiki. It operated independently of Nupedia, and with a set of rules initially defined, it was originally to be for-profit. Within the 2001 year, Wikipedia reached 18 languages with 20,000 articles. As of 2007-end, it was the largest encyclopedia ever (prior to which the most comprehensive encyclopedia had been the Yongle Encyclopedia of the year 1408). In 2002, interestingly, what started as a for-profit venture with Wikipedia.com became an ad-free Wikipedia.org (perhaps as a response to threats of a break-off system being formulated which was ad-free and still relatively control-free). In 2007, with some issues regarding loss of editors by one-third, Wales held that there was some “steady state” of loss and gain. Nonetheless, Wikipedia reached the top 7 websites being frequented per Alexa Internet, with 8-18 billion pageviews per month and about 500 million unique visitors. Some of the page view decline of Wikipedia in recent years, it is claimed, is from Google’s Knoledge Graphs, with about 2 billion pages decline in the year 2013.

 

Present: One-Stop Information Shop

Despite its significant status as #7 among the most popular websites in the world as of March, 2015 (after, in order, per itself, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo!, Baidu, and Amazon), Wikipedia is criticized on numerous fronts – of whether its popular approach of contributors may not be accurate, that those “with an ax to grind” may be dominating articles, a side-by-side study in 2005 by the respected journal Nature found that in 42 scientific articles tested, Wikipedia had on average 4 errors whereas Encyclopedia Britannica had 3 – hence not noting a significant difference. Further controversies have arisen regarding content and privacy.

Operationally, Wikipedia editors forming a WIkiProject per article with discussion page tying in different articles. Wikipedia as a whole is hosted and funded by Wikimedia Foundation (which is a non-profit organization, also operating Wiktionary and Wikibooks) – with approximate assets of $40mm and revenue of $40mm also on a prior annual report. Lucene is the most recent search program used (Java-based).

Articles are graded, starting with a “stub” then moving to a “Start” then “C” then “B” with increased quality, and then following community peer review possibly an “A” with the highest rank being a “featured article” (with such articles reserved for 0.1% of articles). Articles may also be rated for “importance” from low to high and then “top.” About 4.4 million articles were assessed in 2014.

With between 25,000-60,000 page requests per second, Linux (Ubuntu)-based servers in Florida, Amsterdam, and Virginia.

In addition to its approximately 68,000 editors, Wikipedia also has both dispute resolution and arbitration committees, with a structure that is somewhat a restricted democracy with its chosen “editors in good standing.”

 

Future: Our wiki world

Wikipedia’s model has set important precedents in the world – with wiki use, or multi-user determination of content in its open-source format, certain biases are removed which may otherwise exist. Also, cost of use to most users is minimal if any.

The Wikipedia model succeeds in part because of the following characteristics: it is free, it is free of advertisements (with occasional fundraising requests from the site to users), it has reasonably reputable content put together by many presumably good editors, and it has a vast array of information which is readily accessible. Recently, Wikipedia has sued surveillance agencies because of alleged “monitoring” of its users, which it may contend discourages further users due to lack of privacy or anonymity in accessing the site.

Similar extrapolations, with some variations in pricing are present in items such as Wiktionary, but also more remote cousins of open-sourcing such as Bitcoin – an open-source payment method with significantly reduced transaction fees that despite some controversy have gained increased adoption across major businesses (a topic covered under a separate section entitled “Bitcoin” under www.InnovateOurWorld.com).

With the printed encyclopedia markedly curtailed in sales, the question of tomorrow could well be: what will be the next industry to be similarly replaced with the wiki movement?

(Information above has been acquired from numerous sources, including www.technologyreview.com, www.reuters.com, www.wikipedia.org, and www.harvard.edu, among others)