Top 10 Web Wonders of the Decade #6

4 01 2010

Number 6: Wikipedia

Launched in 2001 Wikipedia only just makes the list of web wonders of the ‘Noughties’.  It will celebrate its ninth birthday in just eleven days time.  However in a period spanning less than a decade Wikipedia has fundamentally transformed how we access (and share) knowledge.  

Before this crowd sourced encyclopaedia became available, the gold standard for a comprehensive compendium of human knowledge was the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  It was first published over two hundred years ago and is currently in its fifteenth edition.  That works out as a new edition just about every thirteen years on average.  Wikipedia on the other hand is in state on constant revision.

The user-generated encyclopaedia has become in the words of co-founder Jimmy Wales “part of the infrastructure of the internet” and it is the world’s fifth most popular website.  There are over 3 million entries in English alone, just one (albeit the largest) of the 272 language versions.  

Wikipedia is Web 2.0 to the core.  All of its article are written collaboratively by volunteers around the world and almost can be edited by anyone so long as they have registered to have access to the site.  It has redefined how we collaborate and how we share knowledge.  It is also the only top ten web site that is run as a non-profit organisation.  The model is however under pressure. Giving all users irrespective of credentials or expertise equal rights to publish and edit may not be an optimum way of sharing knowledge.  However to subject changes proposed by newcomers to approval by more experienced editors (an innovation already adopted in the German version) may strike at the core principles of the project.  The debate goes on.

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