Wikipedia

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Wikipedia
A white sphere made of large jigsaw pieces, with letters from several alphabets shown on the pieces
Wikipedia wordmark
The logo of Wikipedia, a globe featuring glyphs from several writing systems, most of them meaning the letter W or sound "wi"
Web address wikipedia.org
Slogan The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit
Commercial? No
Type of site
Internet encyclopedia
Registration Optional[notes 1]
Available in 287 editions[1]
Users 73,251 active editors (May 2014),[2] 23,485,554 total accounts.
Content license
CC Attribution / Share-Alike 3.0
Most text also dual-licensed under GFDL, media licensing varies.
Written in PHP[3]
Owner Wikimedia Foundation
Created by Jimmy Wales, Larry Sanger[4]
Launched January 15, 2001; 13 years ago (2001-01-15)
Alexa rank
Decrease 7 (December 2014)[5]
Current status Active

Wikipedia (Listeni/ˌwɪkɨˈpdiə/ or Listeni/ˌwɪkiˈpdiə/ WIK-i-PEE-dee-ə) is a free-access, free content Internet encyclopedia, supported and hosted by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Anyone who can access the site[6] can edit almost any of its articles. Wikipedia is the sixth-most popular website[5] and constitutes the Internet's largest and most popular general reference work.[7][8][9]

Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger launched Wikipedia on January 15, 2001. Sanger[10] coined its name,[11] a portmanteau of wiki (from the Hawaiian word for "quick")[12] and encyclopedia. Although Wikipedia's content was initially only in English, it quickly became multilingual, through the launch of versions in different languages. All versions of Wikipedia are similar, but important differences exist in content and in editing practices. The English Wikipedia is now one of more than 200 Wikipedias, but remains the largest one, with over 4.6 million articles. As of February 2014, it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.[13] Wikipedia has more than 22 million accounts, out of which there were over 73,000 active editors globally as of May 2014.[2]

Studies tend to show that Wikipedia's accuracy is similar to Encyclopedia Britannica, with Wikipedia being much larger. However, critics have worried that Wikipedia exhibits systemic bias, and that its group dynamics hinder its goals. Most academics, historians, teachers and journalists reject Wikipedia as a reliable source of information for being a mixture of truths, half truths, and some falsehoods,[14] and that as a resource about controversial topics, Wikipedia is notoriously subject to manipulation and spin.[15] Wikipedia's Consensus and Undue Weight policies have been repeatedly criticised by prominent scholarly sources for undermining freedom of thought and leading to false beliefs based on incomplete information.[16][17][18][19]

Openness

Differences between versions of an article are highlighted as shown

Unlike traditional encyclopedias, Wikipedia follows the procrastination principle—i.e. waiting for a problem to arise and then fixing it—regarding the security of its content;[20] it started almost entirely open—anyone could create articles, and any Wikipedia article could be edited by any reader, even those who did not have a Wikipedia account. Modifications to all articles would immediately become available. As a result, all articles could contain inaccuracies, ideological biases, and nonsensical or irrelevant text until an editor would correct these issues.

Restrictions

Over time, the English Wikipedia and some other Wikipedias gradually restricted modifications. For example, in the English Wikipedia and some other language editions, only registered users may create a new article.[21] On the English Wikipedia and some others, some particularly sensitive and/or vandalism-prone pages are now "protected" to some degree.[22] A frequently vandalized article can be semi-protected, meaning that only certain editors are able to modify it.[23] A particularly contentious article may be locked so that only administrators are able to make changes.[24]

In certain cases, all editors are allowed to submit modifications, but review is required for some editors. For example, the German Wikipedia maintains "stable versions" of articles,[25] which have passed certain reviews. Following protracted trials and community discussion, the English Wikipedia introduced the "pending changes" system in December 2012.[26] Under this system, new users' edits to certain controversial or vandalism-prone articles are "subject to review from an established Wikipedia editor before publication".[27]

The editing interface of Wikipedia

Review of changes

Although changes are not systematically reviewed, the software that powers Wikipedia provides certain tools allowing anyone to review changes made by others. The "History" page of each article links to each revision.[notes 2][28] On most articles, anyone can undo others' changes by clicking a link on the article's history page. Anyone can view the latest changes to articles, and anyone may maintain a "watchlist" of articles that interest them so they can be notified of any changes. "New pages patrol" is a process whereby newly created articles are checked for obvious problems.[29]

In 2003, economics PhD student Andrea Ciffolilli argued that the low transaction costs of participating in a wiki create a catalyst for collaborative development, and that features such as allowing easy access to past versions of a page favor "creative construction" over "creative destruction".[30]

Vandalism

Any edit that changes content in a way that deliberately compromises the integrity of Wikipedia is considered vandalism. The most common and obvious types of vandalism include insertion of obscenities and crude humor. Vandalism can also include advertising language and other types of spam.[31] Sometimes editors commit vandalism by removing information or entirely blanking a given page. Less common types of vandalism, such as the deliberate addition of plausible but false information to an article, can be more difficult to detect. Vandals can introduce irrelevant formatting, modify page semantics such as the page's title or categorization, manipulate the underlying code of an article, or use images disruptively.[32]

White-haired elderly gentleman in suit and tie speaks at a podium.
American journalist John Seigenthaler (1927–2014), subject of the Seigenthaler incident

Obvious vandalism is generally easy to remove from wiki articles; the median time to detect and fix vandalism is a few minutes.[33][34] However, some vandalism takes much longer to repair.[35]

In the Wikipedia Seigenthaler biography incident, an anonymous editor introduced false information into the biography of American political figure John Seigenthaler in May 2005. Seigenthaler was falsely presented as a suspect in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.[35] The article remained uncorrected for four months.[35] Seigenthaler, the founding editorial director of USA Today and founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, called Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and asked whether he had any way of knowing who contributed the misinformation. Wales replied that he did not, although the perpetrator was eventually traced.[36][37] After the incident, Seigenthaler described Wikipedia as "a flawed and irresponsible research tool".[35] This incident led to policy changes at Wikipedia, specifically targeted at tightening up the verifiability of biographical articles of living people.[38]

Policies and laws

See also: Wikipedia:Five Pillars

Content in Wikipedia is subject to the laws (in particular, the copyright laws) of the United States and of the U.S. state of Virginia, where the majority of Wikipedia's servers are located. Beyond legal matters, the editorial principles of Wikipedia are embodied in the "five pillars" and in numerous policies and guidelines intended to appropriately shape content. Even these rules are stored in wiki form, and Wikipedia editors work as a community to write and revise the website's policies and guidelines.[39] Editors can enforce these rules by deleting or modifying non-compliant material. Originally, rules on the non-English editions of Wikipedia were based on a translation of the rules for the English Wikipedia. They have since diverged to some extent.[25]

Content policies and guidelines

According to the rules on the English Wikipedia, each entry in Wikipedia must be about a topic that is encyclopedic and is not a dictionary entry or dictionary-like.[40] A topic should also meet Wikipedia's standards of "notability",[41] which generally means that the topic must have been covered in mainstream media or major academic journal sources that are independent of the article's subject. Further, Wikipedia intends to convey only knowledge that is already established and recognized.[42] It must not present original research. A claim that is likely to be challenged requires a reference to a reliable source. Among Wikipedia editors, this is often phrased as "verifiability, not truth" to express the idea that the readers, not the encyclopedia, are ultimately responsible for checking the truthfulness of the articles and making their own interpretations.[43] This can at times lead to the removal of information that is valid.[44] Finally, Wikipedia must not take sides.[45] All opinions and viewpoints, if attributable to external sources, must enjoy an appropriate share of coverage within an article.[46] This is known as neutral point of view (NPOV).

Governance

Wikipedia's initial anarchy integrated democratic and hierarchical elements over time.[47][48] A small number of administrators are allowed to modify any article, and an even smaller number of bureaucrats can name new administrators.

An article is not considered to be owned by its creator or any other editor and is not vetted by any recognized authority.[49]

Avoidance of a Tragedy of the commons or Free rider problem in the Wiki-Commons[clarification needed] is attempted via community control mechanisms and trading status[clarification needed] and attention of individual Wikipedia authors.[50] Dan Bricklin said Wikipedia is a prominent example of the "cornucopia of the commons".[51]

Administrators

Editors in good standing in the community can run for one of many levels of volunteer stewardship: this begins with "administrator",[52][53] privileged users who can delete pages, prevent articles from being changed in case of vandalism or editorial disputes, and try to prevent certain persons from editing. Despite the name, administrators are not supposed to enjoy any special privilege in decision-making; instead, their powers are mostly limited to making edits that have project-wide effects and thus are disallowed to ordinary editors, and to implement restrictions intended to prevent certain persons from making disruptive edits (such as vandalism).[54][55]

Fewer editors become administrators than in years past, in part because the process of vetting potential Wikipedia administrators has become more rigorous.[56]

Dispute resolution

Wikipedians may dispute, for example by repeatedly making opposite changes to an article.[57][58][59] Over time, Wikipedia has developed a number of dispute resolution processes. In order to determine community consensus, editors can raise issues at the Village Pump, or initiate a request for comment.

Arbitration Committee

Main article: Arbitration Committee

The Arbitration Committee presides over the ultimate dispute resolution process. Although disputes usually arise from a disagreement between two opposing views on how an article should read, the Arbitration Committee explicitly refuses to directly rule on the specific view that should be adopted. Statistical analyses suggest that the committee ignores the content of disputes and rather focuses on the way disputes are conducted,[60] functioning not so much to resolve disputes and make peace between conflicting editors, but to weed out problematic editors while allowing potentially productive editors back in to participate. Therefore, the committee does not dictate the content of articles, although it sometimes condemns content changes when it deems the new content violates Wikipedia policies (for example, if the new content is considered biased). Its remedies include cautions and probations (used in 63% of cases) and banning editors from articles (43%), subject matters (23%) or Wikipedia (16%). Complete bans from Wikipedia are generally limited to instances of impersonation and anti-social behavior. When conduct is not impersonation or anti-social, but rather anti-consensus or in violation of editing policies, remedies tend to be limited to warnings.[61]

Community

Main article: Wikipedia community
Wikimania, an annual conference for users of Wikipedia and other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Video is of the first Wikimania in 2005 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Each article and each user of Wikipedia has an associated "Talk" page. These form the primary communication channel for editors to discuss, coordinate and debate.[62]

Wikipedians and British Museum curators collaborate on the article Hoxne Hoard in June 2010

Wikipedia's community has been described as cult-like,[63] although not always with entirely negative connotations.[64] The project's preference for cohesiveness, even if it requires compromise that includes disregard of credentials, has been referred to as "anti-elitism".[65]

Wikipedians sometimes award one another virtual barnstars for good work. These personalized tokens of appreciation reveal a wide range of valued work extending far beyond simple editing to include social support, administrative actions, and types of articulation work.[66]

Wikipedia does not require that its editors and contributors provide identification.[67] As Wikipedia grew, "Who writes Wikipedia?" became one of the questions frequently asked on the project.[68] Jimmy Wales once argued that only "a community ... a dedicated group of a few hundred volunteers" makes the bulk of contributions to Wikipedia and that the project is therefore "much like any traditional organization".[69] In 2008, a Slate magazine article reported that: "According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits."[70] This method of evaluating contributions was later disputed by Aaron Swartz, who noted that several articles he sampled had large portions of their content (measured by number of characters) contributed by users with low edit counts.[71]

Historical chart of the number of Wikipedians considered as active by the Wikimedia Foundation

A report in August 2014 showed that Wikipedia had at least 80,000 editors.[72] A significant decline in the number of English-language editors was reported in 2013 by Tom Simonite who stated: "The number of active editors on the English-language Wikipedia peaked in 2007 at more than 51,000 and has been declining ever since...(t)his past summer (2013) only 31,000 people could be considered active editors."[73] Several attempts to explain this have been offered. One possible explanation is that some users become turned off by their experiences.[74] Another explanation, according to Eric Goldman, is found in editors who fail to comply with Wikipedia cultural rituals, such as signing talk pages, implicitly signal that they are Wikipedia outsiders, increasing the odds that Wikipedia insiders may target or discount their contributions. Becoming a Wikipedia insider involves non-trivial costs: the contributor is expected to build a user page, learn Wikipedia-specific technological codes, submit to a sometimes convoluted dispute resolution process, and learn a "baffling culture rich with in-jokes and insider references". Editors who do not log in are in some sense second-class citizens on Wikipedia,[75] as "participants are accredited by members of the wiki community, who have a vested interest in preserving the quality of the work product, on the basis of their ongoing participation",[76] but the contribution histories of IP addresses cannot be attributed to a particular editor with certainty.

A 2007 study by researchers from Dartmouth College found that "anonymous and infrequent contributors to Wikipedia […] are as reliable a source of knowledge as those contributors who register with the site".[77] Jimmy Wales stated in 2009 that "(I)t turns out over 50% of all the edits are done by just .7% of the users... 524 people... And in fact the most active 2%, which is 1400 people, have done 73.4% of all the edits."[69] However, Business Insider editor and journalist Henry Blodget showed in 2009 that in a random sample of articles, most content in Wikipedia (measured by the amount of contributed text that survives to the latest sampled edit) is created by "outsiders", while most editing and formatting is done by "insiders".[69]

A 2008 study found that Wikipedians were less agreeable, open, and conscientious than others.[78][79] According to a 2009 study, there is "evidence of growing resistance from the Wikipedia community to new content".[80]

Diversity

Wikipedia editor demographics

One study found that the contributor base to Wikipedia "was barely 13% women; the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s".[81] A 2011 study by researchers from the University of Minnesota found that females comprised 16.1% of the 38,497 editors who started editing Wikipedia during 2009.[82] In a January 2011 New York Times article, Noam Cohen observed that just 13% of Wikipedia's contributors are female according to a 2009 Wikimedia Foundation survey.[83] Sue Gardner, a former executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, hopes to see female contributions increase to twenty-five percent by 2015.[84] Linda Basch, president of the National Council for Research on Women, noted the contrast in these Wikipedia editor statistics with the percentage of women currently completing bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and PhD programs in the United States (all at rates of 50 percent or greater).[85]

In response, various universities have hosted edit-a-thons to encourage more women to participate in the Wikipedia community. In fall 2013, 15 colleges and universities, including Yale, Brown, and Pennsylvania State, offered college credit for students to "write feminist thinking" about technology into Wikipedia.[86]

In August 2014, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales announced in a BBC interview the Wikimedia Foundation's plans for "doubling down" on the issue of gender bias on Wikipedia. Wales agreed that Sue Gardner's goal of 25% women enrollment by 2015 had not been met. Wales said the foundation would be open to more outreach, more software changes,[87] and more women administrators. Software changes were left open to explore ways of increasing the appeal of Wikipedia to attract women readers to register as editors, and to increase the potential of existing editors to nominate more women administrators[clarify] to enhance the 'management' presence of women at Wikipedia.[88]

Language editions

There are currently 287 language editions of Wikipedia (also called language versions, or simply Wikipedias). Eleven of these have over one million articles each (English, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Vietnamese, and Waray-Waray), four more have over 700,000 articles (Cebuano, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese), 37 more have over 100,000 articles, and 73 more have over 10,000 articles.[89][90] The largest, the English Wikipedia, has over 4.6 million articles. As of June 2013, according to Alexa, the English subdomain (en.wikipedia.org; English Wikipedia) receives approximately 56% of Wikipedia's cumulative traffic, with the remaining split among the other languages (Spanish: 9%; Japanese: 8%; Russian: 6%; German: 5%; French: 4%; Italian: 3%).[91] As of December 2014, the six largest language editions are (in order of article count) the English, Swedish, Dutch, German, French, and Waray-Waray Wikipedias.[92]



Circle frame.svg

Distribution of the 34,051,698 articles in different language editions (as of 20 December 2014)[93]

  English (13.7%)
  Swedish (5.7%)
  Dutch (5.3%)
  German (5.3%)
  French (4.6%)
  Waray-Waray (3.7%)
  Cebuano (3.5%)
  Russian (3.4%)
  Italian (3.4%)
  Spanish (3.4%)
  Other (48%)
Logarithmic graph of the 20 largest language editions of Wikipedia
(as of 20 December 2014)[94]
(millions of articles)
0.1 0.3 1 3

English 4,673,522
Swedish 1,950,760
Dutch 1,803,416
German 1,788,061
French 1,572,141
Waray-Waray 1,258,858
Cebuano 1,208,473
Russian 1,171,941
Italian 1,163,804
Spanish 1,145,327
Vietnamese 1,111,014
Polish 1,081,622
Japanese 938,434
Portuguese 856,769
Chinese 801,223
Ukrainian 543,245
Catalan 444,711
Persian 438,468
Norwegian 402,634
Finnish 362,062

The unit for the numbers in bars is articles. Since Wikipedia is based on the Web and therefore worldwide, contributors to the same language edition may use different dialects or may come from different countries (as is the case for the English edition). These differences may lead to some conflicts over spelling differences (e.g. colour versus color)[95] or points of view.[96]

Though the various language editions are held to global policies such as "neutral point of view", they diverge on some points of policy and practice, most notably on whether images that are not licensed freely may be used under a claim of fair use.[97][98][99]

Jimmy Wales has described Wikipedia as "an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language".[100] Though each language edition functions more or less independently, some efforts are made to supervise them all. They are coordinated in part by Meta-Wiki, the Wikimedia Foundation's wiki devoted to maintaining all of its projects (Wikipedia and others).[101] For instance, Meta-Wiki provides important statistics on all language editions of Wikipedia,[102] and it maintains a list of articles every Wikipedia should have.[103] The list concerns basic content by subject: biography, history, geography, society, culture, science, technology, and mathematics. As for the rest, it is not rare for articles strongly related to a particular language not to have counterparts in another edition. For example, articles about small towns in the United States might only be available in English, even when they meet notability criteria of other language Wikipedia projects.

Estimation of contributions shares from different regions in the world to different Wikipedia editions

Translated articles represent only a small portion of articles in most editions, in part because fully automated translation of articles is disallowed.[104] Articles available in more than one language may offer "interwiki links", which link to the counterpart articles in other editions.

A study published by PLOS ONE in 2012 also estimated the share of contributions to different editions of Wikipedia from different regions of the world. It reported that almost 51% of edits from North America are limited to the English Wikipedia and this value decreases to 25% in simple English Wikipedia.[105][106][not in citation given] The Wikimedia Foundation hopes to increase the number of editors in the Global South to thirty-seven percent by 2015.[107]

On 1 March 2014, The Economist in an article titled "The Future of Wikipedia" cited a trend analysis concerning data published by Wikimedia stating that: "The number of editors for the English-language version has fallen by a third in seven years."[108] The attrition rate for active editors in English Wikipedia was cited by The Economist as substantially in contrast to statistics for Wikipedia in other languages (non-English Wikipedia). The Economist reported that the number of contributors with an average of five of more edits per month was relatively constant since 2008 for Wikipedia in other languages at approximately 42,000 editors within narrow seasonal variances of about 2,000 editors up or down. The attrition rates for editors in English Wikipedia, by sharp comparison, were cited as peaking in 2007 at approximately 50,000 editors which has dropped to 30,000 editors as of the start of 2014. At the quoted trend rate, the number of active editors in English Wikipedia has lost approximately 20,000 editors to attrition since 2007, and the documented trend rate indicates the loss of another 20,000 editors by 2021, down to 10,000 active editors on English Wikipedia by 2021 if left unabated.[108] Given that the trend analysis published in The Economist presents the number of active editors for Wikipedia in other languages (non-English Wikipedia) as remaining relatively constant and successful in sustaining its numbers at approximately 42,000 active editors, the contrast has pointed to the effectiveness of Wikipedia in other languages to retain its active editors on a renewable and sustained basis.[108] No comment was made concerning which of the differentiated edit policy standards from Wikipedia in other languages (non-English Wikipedia) would provide a possible alternative to English Wikipedia for effectively ameliorating substantial editor attrition rates on the English language Wikipedia.[109]

History

Main article: History of Wikipedia
Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger
Logo reading "Nupedia.com the free encyclopedia" in blue with large initial "N".
Wikipedia originally developed from another encyclopedia project, Nupedia

Wikipedia began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online English-language encyclopedia project whose articles were written by experts and reviewed under a formal process. Nupedia was founded on March 9, 2000, under the ownership of Bomis, a web portal company. Its main figures were the Bomis CEO Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief for Nupedia and later Wikipedia. Nupedia was licensed initially under its own Nupedia Open Content License, switching to the GNU Free Documentation License before Wikipedia's founding at the urging of Richard Stallman.[110] Sanger and Wales founded Wikipedia.[111][112] While Wales is credited with defining the goal of making a publicly editable encyclopedia,[113][114] Sanger is credited with the strategy of using a wiki to reach that goal.[115] On January 10, 2001, Sanger proposed on the Nupedia mailing list to create a wiki as a "feeder" project for Nupedia.[116]

External audio
The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1, Ideas with Paul Kennedy, CBC, January 15, 2014.

Wikipedia was formally launched on January 15, 2001, as a single English-language edition at www.wikipedia.com,[117] and announced by Sanger on the Nupedia mailing list.[113] Wikipedia's policy of "neutral point-of-view"[118] was codified in its first months. Otherwise, there were relatively few rules initially and Wikipedia operated independently of Nupedia.[113] Originally, Bomis intended to make Wikipedia a business for profit.[119]

Wikipedia gained early contributors from Nupedia, Slashdot postings, and web search engine indexing. On August 8, 2001, Wikipedia had over 8,000 articles.[120] On September 25, 2001, Wikipedia had over 13,000 articles.[121] And by the end of 2001 it had grown to approximately 20,000 articles and 18 language editions. It had reached 26 language editions by late 2002, 46 by the end of 2003, and 161 by the final days of 2004.[122] Nupedia and Wikipedia coexisted until the former's servers were taken down permanently in 2003, and its text was incorporated into Wikipedia. English Wikipedia passed the mark of two million articles on September 9, 2007, making it the largest encyclopedia ever assembled, surpassing even the 1408 Yongle Encyclopedia, which had held the record for 600 years.[123]

Citing fears of commercial advertising and lack of control in Wikipedia, users of the Spanish Wikipedia forked from Wikipedia to create the Enciclopedia Libre in February 2002.[124] These moves encouraged Wales to announce that Wikipedia would not display advertisements, and to change Wikipedia's domain from wikipedia.com to wikipedia.org.[125]

Though the English Wikipedia reached three million articles in August 2009, the growth of the edition, in terms of the numbers of articles and of contributors, appears to have peaked around early 2007.[126] Around 1,800 articles were added daily to the encyclopedia in 2006; by 2013 that average was roughly 800.[127] A team at the Palo Alto Research Center attributed this slowing of growth to the project's increasing exclusivity and resistance to change.[128] Others suggest that the growth is flattening naturally because articles that could be called "low-hanging fruit" – topics that clearly merit an article – have already been created and built up extensively.[129][130][131]

In November 2009, a researcher at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid (Spain) found that the English Wikipedia had lost 49,000 editors during the first three months of 2009; in comparison, the project lost only 4,900 editors during the same period in 2008.[132][133] The Wall Street Journal cited the array of rules applied to editing and disputes related to such content among the reasons for this trend.[134] Wales disputed these claims in 2009, denying the decline and questioning the methodology of the study.[135] Two years later, Wales acknowledged the presence of a slight decline, noting a decrease from "a little more than 36,000 writers" in June 2010 to 35,800 in June 2011.[136] In the same interview, Wales also claimed the number of editors was "stable and sustainable," a claim which was questioned by MIT's Technology Review in a 2013 article titled "The Decline of Wikipedia."[73] In July 2012, the Atlantic reported that the number of administrators is also in decline.[137] In the 25 November 2013 issue of New York magazine, Katherine Ward stated "Wikipedia, the sixth-most-used website, is facing an internal crisis. In 2013, MIT's Technology Review revealed that since 2007, the site has lost a third of the volunteer editors who update and correct the online encyclopedia's millions of pages and those still there have focused increasingly on minutiae."[138]

Wikipedia blackout protest against SOPA on January 18, 2012

In January 2007, Wikipedia entered for the first time the top-ten list of the most popular websites in the United States, according to comScore Networks. With 42.9 million unique visitors, Wikipedia was ranked number 9, surpassing the New York Times (#10) and Apple (#11). This marked a significant increase over January 2006, when the rank was number 33, with Wikipedia receiving around 18.3 million unique visitors.[139] In February 2014, Wikipedia was the sixth-most popular website worldwide according to Alexa Internet,[91] receiving 12 billion pageviews every month[140] (2.7 billion from the United States[141]). On 9 February 2014, The New York Times reported that Wikipedia has 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors a month, "according to the ratings firm comScore."[13]

On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia participated in a series of coordinated protests against two proposed laws in the United States Congress—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA)—by blacking out its pages for 24 hours.[142] More than 162 million people viewed the blackout explanation page that temporarily replaced Wikipedia content.[143][144]

Loveland and Reagle argue that, in process, Wikipedia follows a long tradition of historical encyclopedias that accumulated improvements piecemeal through "stigmergic accumulation".[145][146]

On 20 January 2014, Subodh Varma reporting for The Economic Times indicated that not only had Wikipedia growth flattened but that it has "lost nearly 10 per cent of its page-views last year. That's a decline of about 2 billion between December 2012 and December 2013. Its most popular versions are leading the slide: page-views of the English Wikipedia declined by 12 per cent, those of German version slid by 17 per cent and the Japanese version lost 9 per cent."[147] Varma added that, "While Wikipedia's managers think that this could be due to errors in counting, other experts feel that Google's Knowledge Graphs project launched last year may be gobbling up Wikipedia users."[147] When contacted on this matter, Clay Shirky, associate professor at New York University and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for internet and Security indicated that he suspected much of the page view decline was due to Knowledge Graphs, stating, "If you can get your question answered from the search page, you don't need to click [any further]."[147]

A video review of Wikipedia content in 2014 that encourages viewers to edit Wikipedia.
Graph of number of articles in the English Wikipedia showing steady growth
Number of articles in the English Wikipedia (in blue) 
Growth of the number of articles in the English Wikipedia showing a max around 2007
Growth of the number of articles in the English Wikipedia (in blue) 
Graph showing the number of days between every 10,000,000th edit (ca. 50 days), from 2005 to 2011
Number of days between every 10,000,000th edit from 2005 to 2012 


Critical reception

As Wikipedia has become a main source for a wide range of general knowledge, criticism sites have developed that were instrumental in exposing the dark side of Wikipedia such as paid advocacy.[148] As of 2014, the most prominent site is Wikipediocracy, which, according to Wikipedia, "has provided some journalists with background information on Wikipedia's controversies."[149] Several Wikipedians have criticized Wikipedia's large and growing regulation, which includes over 50 policies and nearly 150,000 words as of 2014.[150][151]

Critics have stated that Wikipedia exhibits systemic bias, and that its group dynamics hinder its goals. Most academics, historians, teachers and journalists reject Wikipedia as a reliable source of information for being a mixture of truth, half truth, and some falsehoods.[14] Articles in the Times Higher Education magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Journal of Academic Librarianship have criticized Wikipedia's Consensus and Undue Weight policies, concluding that the first undermines the Freedom of thought and the second; the fact that Wikipedia explicitly is not designed to provide correct information about a subject, but rather only present the majority "weight" of viewpoints creates omissions which can lead to false beliefs based on incomplete information.[16][17][18][19] Novelist and critic A. S. Byatt has described this consensus populism as leading to the tyranny of the majority.[152] A New York Times article concluded that the casual reader is not aware of these policies which restrict freedom of expression.[153]

Prominent unorthodox scientists Brian Josephson, Jack Sarfatti and Rupert Sheldrake share the critical view that, "Wikipedia seemed to be in the hands of a group of sceptical minds, intent on making sure there were no mysteries and no conspiracies."[154][155][156][157] Members of the alternative medicine community have accused Wikipedia of systematically and dogmatically being biased and misleading against alternative medicine.[158][159][160][161] Journalists Oliver Kamm and Edwin Black noted how articles are dominated by the loudest and most persistent voices, usually by a group with an "ax to grind" on the topic.[14][162] An article in Education Next Journal concluded that as a resource about controversial topics, Wikipedia is notoriously subject to manipulation and spin.[15]

Scholar and author Mark Bauerlein perceives Wikipedia as a threat for being a "monolith enclosing the knowledge worlds of students".[163] The Academic Integrity at MIT handbook for students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology states: 'Wikipedia is Not a Reliable Academic Source: The bibliography published at the end of the Wikipedia entry may point you to potential sources. However, do not assume that these sources are reliable – use the same criteria to judge them as you would any other source. Do not consider the Wikipedia bibliography as a replacement for your own research."[164]

Accuracy of content

Articles for traditional encyclopedias such as Encyclopædia Britannica are carefully and deliberately written by experts, lending such encyclopedias a reputation for accuracy. Conversely, Wikipedia is often cited for factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations. However, a peer review in 2005 of forty-two scientific entries on both Wikipedia and Encyclopædia Britannica by the science journal Nature found few differences in accuracy, and concluded that "the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three."[165] Reagle suggested that while the study reflects "a topical strength of Wikipedia contributors" in science articles, "Wikipedia may not have fared so well using a random sampling of articles or on humanities subjects."[166] The findings by Nature were disputed by Encyclopædia Britannica,[167][168] and in response, Nature gave a rebuttal of the points raised by Britannica.[169] In addition to the point-for-point disagreement between these two parties, others have examined the sample size and selection method used in the Nature effort, and suggested a "flawed study design" (in Nature '​s manual selection of articles, in part or in whole, for comparison), absence of statistical analysis (e.g., of reported confidence intervals), and a lack of study "statistical power" (i.e., owing to small sample size, 42 or 4 x 101 articles compared, vs >105 and >106 set sizes for Britannica and the English Wikipedia, respectively).[170]

As a consequence of the open structure, Wikipedia "makes no guarantee of validity" of its content, since no one is ultimately responsible for any claims appearing in it.[171] Concerns have been raised by PC World in 2009 regarding the lack of accountability that results from users' anonymity,[172] the insertion of false information,[173] vandalism, and similar problems.

Economist Tyler Cowen wrote: "If I had to guess whether Wikipedia or the median refereed journal article on economics was more likely to be true, after a not so long think I would opt for Wikipedia." He comments that some traditional sources of non-fiction suffer from systemic biases and novel results, in his opinion, are over-reported in journal articles and relevant information is omitted from news reports. However, he also cautions that errors are frequently found on Internet sites, and that academics and experts must be vigilant in correcting them.[174]

Critics argue that Wikipedia's open nature and a lack of proper sources for most of the information makes it unreliable.[175] Some commentators suggest that Wikipedia may be reliable, but that the reliability of any given article is not clear.[176] Editors of traditional reference works such as the Encyclopædia Britannica have questioned the project's utility and status as an encyclopedia.[177]

External video
Inside Wikipedia - Attack of the PR Industry, Deutsche Welle, 7:13 mins[178]

Wikipedia's open structure inherently makes it an easy target for Internet trolls, spammers, and various forms of paid advocacy seen as counterproductive to the maintenance of a neutral and verifiable online encyclopedia.[28][179] In response to paid advocacy and undisclosed editing issues, Wikipedia was reported in an article by Jeff Elder in The Wall Street Journal on 16 June 2014 to have strengthened its rules and laws against undisclosed editing.[180] The article stated that: "Beginning Monday (from date of article), changes in Wikipedia's terms of use will require anyone paid to edit articles to disclose that arrangement. Katherine Maher, the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation's chief communications officer, said the changes address a sentiment among volunteer editors that, 'we're not an advertising service; we're an encyclopedia.'"[180][181][182][183][184] These issues, among others, had been parodied since the first decade of Wikipedia, notably by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.[185]

On 5 March 2014, Julie Beck writing for The Atlantic magazine in an article titled "Doctors' #1 Source for Healthcare Information: Wikipedia", stated that "Fifty percent of physicians look up conditions on the (Wikipedia) site, and some are editing articles themselves to improve the quality of available information."[186] Beck continued to detail in this article new programs of Dr. Amin Azzam at the University of San Francisco to offer medical school courses to medical students for learning to edit and improve Wikipedia articles on health-related issues, as well as internal quality control programs within Wikipedia organized by Dr. James Heilman to improve a group of 200 health-related articles of central medical importance up to Wikipedia's highest standard of peer review evaluated articles using its Featured Article and Good Article peer review evaluation standards.[186] In a 7 May 2014 follow-up article in The Atlantic titled "Can Wikipedia Ever Be a Definitive Medical Text", Julie Beck quotes Wikiproject's Dr. James Heilman as stating: "Just because a reference is peer-reviewed doesn't mean it's a high-quality reference."[187] Beck added that: "Wikipedia has its own peer review process before articles can be classified as 'good' or 'featured.' Heilman, who has participated in that process before, says 'less than 1 percent' of Wikipedia's medical articles have passed.[187]

Most university lecturers discourage students from citing any encyclopedia in academic work, preferring primary sources;[188] some specifically prohibit Wikipedia citations.[189][190] Wales stresses that encyclopedias of any type are not usually appropriate to use as citeable sources, and should not be relied upon as authoritative.[191] Wales once (2006 or earlier) said he receives about ten emails weekly from students saying they got failing grades on papers because they cited Wikipedia; he told the students they got what they deserved. "For God's sake, you're in college; don't cite the encyclopedia", he said.[192]

In February 2007, an article in The Harvard Crimson newspaper reported that a few of the professors at Harvard University include Wikipedia in their syllabi, but that there is a split in their perception of using Wikipedia.[193] In June 2007, former president of the American Library Association Michael Gorman condemned Wikipedia, along with Google,[194] stating that academics who endorse the use of Wikipedia are "the intellectual equivalent of a dietitian who recommends a steady diet of Big Macs with everything".

A Harvard law textbook, Legal Research in a Nutshell (2011), cites Wikipedia as a "general source" that "can be a real boon" in "coming up to speed in the law governing a situation" and, "while not authoritative, can provide basic facts as well as leads to more in-depth resources".[195]

Quality of writing

Because contributors usually rewrite small portions of an entry rather than making full-length revisions, high- and low-quality content may be intermingled within an entry. Roy Rosenzweig, a history professor, stated that American National Biography Online outperformed Wikipedia in terms of its "clear and engaging prose", which, he said, was an important aspect of good historical writing.[196] Most Wikipedia articles are related to history.[197] Contrasting Wikipedia's treatment of Abraham Lincoln to that of Civil War historian James McPherson in American National Biography Online, he said that both were essentially accurate and covered the major episodes in Lincoln's life, but praised "McPherson's richer contextualization […] his artful use of quotations to capture Lincoln's voice […] and […] his ability to convey a profound message in a handful of words." By contrast, he gives an example of Wikipedia's prose that he finds "both verbose and dull". Rosenzweig also criticized the "waffling—encouraged by the npov policy—[which] means that it is hard to discern any overall interpretive stance in Wikipedia history". By example, he quoted the conclusion of Wikipedia's article on William Clarke Quantrill. While generally praising the article, he pointed out its "waffling" conclusion: "Some historians […] remember him as an opportunistic, bloodthirsty outlaw, while others continue to view him as a daring soldier and local folk hero."[196]

Other critics have made similar charges that, even if Wikipedia articles are factually accurate, they are often written in a poor, almost unreadable style. Frequent Wikipedia critic Andrew Orlowski commented: "Even when a Wikipedia entry is 100 per cent factually correct, and those facts have been carefully chosen, it all too often reads as if it has been translated from one language to another then into to a third, passing an illiterate translator at each stage."[198] A study of articles on cancer was undertaken in 2010 by Yaacov Lawrence of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University limited to those Wikipedia articles which could be found in the Physician Data Query and excluding Wikipedia articles written at the "start" class or the "stub" class level. Lawrence found the articles accurate but not very readable, and thought that "Wikipedia's lack of readability (to non-college readers) may reflect its varied origins and haphazard editing".[199] The Economist argued that better-written articles tend to be more reliable: "inelegant or ranting prose usually reflects muddled thoughts and incomplete information".[200]

Coverage of topics and systemic bias

Wikipedia seeks to create a summary of all human knowledge in the form of an online encyclopedia, with each topic covered encyclopedically in one article. Since it has terabytes of disk space, it can have far more topics than can be covered by any printed encyclopedia.[201] The exact degree and manner of coverage on Wikipedia is under constant review by its editors, and disagreements are not uncommon (see deletionism and inclusionism).[202][203] Wikipedia contains materials that some people may find objectionable, offensive, or pornographic because Wikipedia is not censored. The policy has sometimes proved controversial: in 2008, Wikipedia rejected an online petition against the inclusion of images of Muhammad in the English edition of its Muhammad article, citing this policy. The presence of politically, religiously, and pornographically sensitive materials in Wikipedia has led to the censorship of Wikipedia by national authorities in China,[204] Pakistan,[205] and the United Kingdom,[206] among other countries.

Pie chart of Wikipedia content by subject as of January 2008[207]

A 2008 study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Palo Alto Research Center gave a distribution of topics as well as growth (from July 2006 to January 2008) in each field:[207]

  • Culture and the arts: 30% (210%)
  • Biographies and persons: 15% (97%)
  • Geography and places: 14% (52%)
  • Society and social sciences: 12% (83%)
  • History and events: 11% (143%)
  • Natural and physical sciences: 9% (213%)
  • Technology and the applied sciences: 4% (−6%)
  • Religions and belief systems: 2% (38%)
  • Health: 2% (42%)
  • Mathematics and logic: 1% (146%)
  • Thought and philosophy: 1% (160%)

These numbers refer only to the quantity of articles: it is possible for one topic to contain a large number of short articles and another to contain a small number of large ones. Through its "Wikipedia Loves Libraries" program, Wikipedia has partnered with major public libraries such as the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts to expand its coverage of underrepresented subjects and articles.[208]

A 2011 study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota indicated that male and female editors focus on different coverage topics. There was a greater concentration of females in the People and Arts category, while males focus more on Geography and Science.[209]

Coverage of topics and selection bias

Research conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute has shown that the geographic distribution of article topics is highly uneven. Africa is most underrepresented.[210]

A "selection bias" may arise when more words per article are devoted to one public figure than a rival public figure. Editors may dispute suspected biases and discuss controversial articles, sometimes at great length.

Systemic bias

When multiple editors contribute to one topic or set of topics, there may arise a systemic bias, such as non-opposite definitions for apparent antonyms. In 2011, Wales noted that the unevenness of coverage is a reflection of the demography of the editors, which predominantly consists of young males with high education levels in the developed world (cf previously).[136] The 22 October 2013 essay by Tom Simonite in MIT's Technology Review titled "The Decline of Wikipedia" discussed the effect of systemic bias and policy creep on recent downward trends in the number of editors available to support Wikipedia's range and coverage of topics.[73]

Systemic bias on Wikipedia may follow that of culture generally, for example favouring certain ethnicities or majority religions.[211] It may more specifically follow the biases of Internet culture, inclining to being young, male, English-speaking, educated, technologically aware, and wealthy enough to spare time for editing. Biases of its own may include over-emphasis on topics such as pop culture, technology, and current events.[211]

Taha Yasseri of the University of Oxford, in 2013, studied the statistical trends of systemic bias at Wikipedia introduced by editing conflicts and their resolution.[212][213] His research examined the counterproductive work behavior of edit warring. Yasseri contended that simple reverts or "undo" operations were not the most significant measure of counterproductive behavior at Wikipedia and relied instead on the statistical measurement of detecting "reverting/reverted pairs" or "mutually reverting edit pairs." Such a "mutually reverting edit pair" is defined where one editor reverts the edit of another editor who then, in sequence, returns to revert the first editor in the "mutually reverting edit pairs." The results were tabulated for all language versions of Wikipedia, with the English Wikipedia three largest conflict rates applying to articles about (i) G.W. Bush, (ii) Anarchism and (iii) Mohammad.[213] By comparison, for German Wikipedia the three largest conflict rates at the time of the Oxford study were for the articles covering (i) Croatia, (ii) Scientology and (iii) 9/11 Conspiracy Theories.[213]

Explicit content

Wikipedia has been criticized for allowing information of graphic content. Articles depicting arguably objectionable content (such as Feces, Cadaver, Human penis, and Vulva) contain graphic pictures and detailed information easily available to anyone with access to the internet, including children.

The site also includes sexual content such as images and videos of masturbation and ejaculation, photographs of nude children, illustrations of zoophilia, and photos from hardcore pornographic films in its articles.

The Wikipedia article about Virgin Killer – a 1976 album from German heavy metal band Scorpions – features a picture of the album's original cover, which depicts a naked prepubescent girl. The original release cover caused controversy and was replaced in some countries. In December 2008, access to the Wikipedia article Virgin Killer was blocked for four days by most Internet service providers in the United Kingdom after it was reported by a member of the public as child pornography,[215] to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which issues a stop list to Internet service providers. IWF, a non-profit, non-government-affiliated organization, later criticized the inclusion of the picture as "distasteful".[216]

In April 2010, Sanger wrote a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, outlining his concerns that two categories of images on Wikimedia Commons contained child pornography, and were in violation of US federal obscenity law.[217] Sanger later clarified that the images, which were related to pedophilia and one about lolicon, were not of real children, but said that they constituted "obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children", under the PROTECT Act of 2003.[218] That law bans photographic child pornography and cartoon images and drawings of children that are obscene under American law.[218] Sanger also expressed concerns about access to the images on Wikipedia in schools.[219] Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh strongly rejected Sanger's accusation,[220] saying that Wikipedia did not have "material we would deem to be illegal. If we did, we would remove it."[220] Following the complaint by Sanger, Wales deleted sexual images without consulting the community. After some editors who volunteer to maintain the site argued that the decision to delete had been made hastily, Wales voluntarily gave up some of the powers he had held up to that time as part of his co-founder status. He wrote in a message to the Wikimedia Foundation mailing-list that this action was "in the interest of encouraging this discussion to be about real philosophical/content issues, rather than be about me and how quickly I acted".[221] Critics, including Wikipediocracy, noticed that many of the pornographic images deleted from Wikipedia since 2010 have reappeared.[222]

Privacy

One privacy concern in the case of Wikipedia is the right of a private citizen to remain a "private citizen" rather than a "public figure" in the eyes of the law.[223][notes 3] It is a battle between the right to be anonymous in cyberspace and the right to be anonymous in real life ("meatspace"). A particular problem occurs in the case of an individual who is relatively unimportant and for whom there exists a Wikipedia page against her or his wishes.

In January 2006, a German court ordered the German Wikipedia shut down within Germany because it stated the full name of Boris Floricic, aka "Tron", a deceased hacker. On February 9, 2006, the injunction against Wikimedia Deutschland was overturned, with the court rejecting the notion that Tron's right to privacy or that of his parents was being violated.[224]

Wikipedia has a "Volunteer Response Team" that uses the OTRS system to handle queries without having to reveal the identities of the involved parties. This is used, for example, in confirming the permission for using individual images and other media in the project.[225]

Wikipedia conflicts in the media

The observation decks and spire of the Donauturm

Attempts to delete an entry about the Wedding dress of Kate Middleton led to a controversy on the English Wikipedia.[226] Jimmy Wales used the example to illustrate his notion about a 'gender gap' in Wikipedia on the Wikimania 2012,[227] the issue received some press coverage.[228][229]

One of the largest disputes in the German Wikipedia about a simple sentence was about the Donauturm in Vienna.[230] While the observation tower shares some architectural aspects with the Fernsehturm Stuttgart, it was never planned for TV broadcasting purposes. The German Wikipedia went through a rather lengthy (about 600,000 characters) discussion about the suitable title and category. Some (often Austrian) authors denied the description of Donauturm as a "TV tower", which was stubbornly defended by others.[230] The Spiegel coverage of the issue cited a participant with "On good days, Wikipedia is better than any TV soap".[230]

Although poorly written articles are flagged for improvement,[231] critics note that the style and quality of individual articles may vary greatly.

In 2006, the Wikipedia Watch criticism website listed dozens of examples of plagiarism by Wikipedia editors on the English version.[232]

Operation

A group of Wikipedia editors may form a WikiProject to focus their work on a specific topic area, using its associated discussion page to coordinate changes across multiple articles.[233]

Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia chapters

Main article: Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia is hosted and funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization which also operates Wikipedia-related projects such as Wiktionary and Wikibooks. The foundation relies on public contributions and grants to fund its mission.[234] Wikimedia chapters, local associations of users and supporters of the Wikimedia projects also participate in the promotion, development, and funding of the project. The foundation's recent 2013 IRS Form 990 shows revenue of $39.7 million and expenses of almost $29 million, with assets of $37.2 million and liabilities of about $2.3 million.[235]

In May 2014, Wikimedia Foundation named Lila Tretikov as its new executive director, taking over for Sue Gardner.[236] The Wall Street Journal reported on 1 May 2014 that Tretikov's information technology background from her years at University of California offers Wikipedia an opportunity to develop in more concentrated directions guided by her often repeated position statement that, "Information, like air, wants to be free."[237][238] The same Wall Street Journal article reported these directions of development according to an interview with spokesman Jay Walsh of Wikimedia who "said Tretikov would address that issue (paid advocacy) as a priority. 'We are really pushing toward more transparency... We are reinforcing that paid advocacy is not welcome.' Initiatives to involve greater diversity of contributors, better mobile support of Wikipedia, new geo-location tools to find local content more easily, and more tools for users in the second and third world are also priorities, Walsh said."[237]

Software operations and support

See also: MediaWiki

The operation of Wikipedia depends on MediaWiki, a custom-made, free and open source wiki software platform written in PHP and built upon the MySQL database system.[239] The software incorporates programming features such as a macro language, variables, a transclusion system for templates, and URL redirection. MediaWiki is licensed under the GNU General Public License and it is used by all Wikimedia projects, as well as many other wiki projects. Originally, Wikipedia ran on UseModWiki written in Perl by Clifford Adams (Phase I), which initially required CamelCase for article hyperlinks; the present double bracket style was incorporated later. Starting in January 2002 (Phase II), Wikipedia began running on a PHP wiki engine with a MySQL database; this software was custom-made for Wikipedia by Magnus Manske. The Phase II software was repeatedly modified to accommodate the exponentially increasing demand. In July 2002 (Phase III), Wikipedia shifted to the third-generation software, MediaWiki, originally written by Lee Daniel Crocker.

Several MediaWiki extensions are installed[240] to extend the functionality of the MediaWiki software.

In April 2005, a Lucene extension[241][242] was added to MediaWiki's built-in search and Wikipedia switched from MySQL to Lucene for searching. The site currently uses Lucene Search 2.1,[243] which is written in Java and based on Lucene library 2.3.[244]

In July 2013, after extensive beta testing, a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) extension, VisualEditor, was opened to public use.[245][246][247][248] It was met with much rejection and criticism, and was described as "slow and buggy".[249] The feature was turned off afterward.

Automated editing

Computer programs called bots have been used widely to perform simple and repetitive tasks, such as correcting common misspellings and stylistic issues, or to start articles such as geography entries in a standard format from statistical data.[250][251][252] One controversial contributor massively creating articles with his bot was reported to create up to ten thousand articles on the Swedish Wikipedia on certain days.[253] There are also some bots designed to automatically warn editors making common editing errors (such as unmatched quotes or unmatched parenthesis).[254] Edits misidentified by a bot as the work of a banned editor can be restored by other editors. An anti-vandal bot tries to detect and revert vandalism quickly and automatically.[251] Bots can also report edits from particular accounts or IP address ranges, as was done at the time of the MH17 jet downing incident in July 2014.[255] Bots on Wikipedia must be approved prior to activation.[256]

According to Andrew Lih, the current expansion of Wikipedia to millions of articles would be difficult to envision without the use of such bots.[257]

Wikiprojects, and assessment of importance and quality

In 2007, in preparation for producing a print version, the English Wikipedia introduced an assessment scale of the quality of articles.[258] The range of quality classes begins with "Stub" (very short pages), followed by "Start", "C" and "B" (in increasing order of quality). Community peer review is needed for the article to enter one of the highest quality classes: either "A", "good article" or the highest, "featured article". Of the total of about 4.4 million articles assessed as of 11 December 2013, approximately five thousand are featured articles (0.1%). One featured article per day, as selected by editors, appears on the main page of Wikipedia.[259][260]

Researcher Giacomo Poderi found that articles tend to reach featured status via the intensive work of a few editors.[261] A 2010 study found unevenness in quality among featured articles and concluded that the community process is ineffective in assessing the quality of articles.[262]

The articles can also be rated as per "importance" as judged by a Wikiproject. Currently, there are 5 importance categories: "low", "mid", "high", "top", and "???" for unclassified/unsure level. For a particular article, different Wikiprojects may assign different importance levels.

The Wikipedia Version 1.0 Editorial Team has developed a table (shown below) that displays data of all rated articles by quality and importance, on the English Wikipedia. If an article receives different ratings by two or more Wikiprojects, then the highest rating is used in the table. The software regularly auto-updates the data.



Circle frame.svg

Quality-wise distribution of over 4.6 million articles and lists on the English Wikipedia, as of 6 September 2014[263]

  Featured articles (0.11%)
  Featured lists (0.04%)
  A class (0.03%)
  Good articles (0.49%)
  B class (2.16%)
  C class (3.90%)
  Start class (25.50%)
  Stub class (54.12%)
  Lists (3.46%)
  Unassessed (10.29%)






Circle frame.svg

Importance-wise distribution of over 4.6 million articles and lists on the English Wikipedia, as of 6 September 2014[263]

  Top importance (0.93%)
  High importance (3.25%)
  Mid importance (12.47%)
  Low importance (48.39%)
  ??? (34.95%)
About this table
500,000
1,000,000
1,500,000
2,000,000
2,500,000
3,000,000
Top importance
High importance
Mid-importance
Low importance
???
  •   Featured articles
  •   Featured lists
  •   A-class articles
  •   Good articles
  •   B-class articles
  •   C-class articles
  •   Start-class articles
  •   Stub articles
  •   Lists
  •   Unassessed articles and lists

[Note: The table above (prepared by the Wikipedia Version 1.0 Editorial Team) is automatically updated, but the bar-chart and the two pie-charts are not auto-updated. In them, new data has to be entered by a Wikipedia editor (i.e. user).]

Hardware operations and support

Wikipedia receives between 25,000 and 60,000 page requests per second, depending on time of day.[264] Page requests are first passed to a front-end layer of Squid caching servers.[265] Further statistics, based on a publicly available 3-month Wikipedia access trace, are available.[266] Requests that cannot be served from the Squid cache are sent to load-balancing servers running the Linux Virtual Server software, which in turn pass them to one of the Apache web servers for page rendering from the database. The web servers deliver pages as requested, performing page rendering for all the language editions of Wikipedia. To increase speed further, rendered pages are cached in a distributed memory cache until invalidated, allowing page rendering to be skipped entirely for most common page accesses.

Wikipedia currently runs on dedicated clusters of Linux servers (mainly Ubuntu).[267][268] As of December 2009, there were 300 in Florida and 44 in Amsterdam.[269] By January 22, 2013, Wikipedia had migrated its primary data center to an Equinix facility in Ashburn, Virginia.[270][271]

Diagram showing flow of data between Wikipedia's servers. Twenty database servers talk to hundreds of Apache servers in the backend; the Apache servers talk to fifty squids in the frontend.
Overview of system architecture, December 2010. See server layout diagrams on Meta-Wiki

Internal research and operational development

In accordance with growing amounts of incoming donations exceeding seven digits in 2013 as recently reported,[272] the Foundation has reached a threshold of assets which qualify its consideration under the principles of industrial organization economics to indicate the need for the re-investment of donations into the internal research and development of the Foundation.[273] Two of the recent projects of such internal research and development have been the creation of a Visual Editor and a largely under-utilized "Thank" tab which were developed for the purpose of ameliorating issues of editor attrition, which have met with limited success.[249][274] The estimates for reinvestment by industrial organizations into internal research and development was studied by Adam Jaffe who recorded that the range of 4% to 25% annually was to be recommended, with high end technology requiring the higher level of support for internal reinvestment.[275] At the 2013 level of contributions for Wikimedia presently documented as 45 million dollars, the computed budget level recommended by Jaffe and Caballero for reinvestment into internal research and development is between 1.8 million and 11.3 million dollars annually.[275]

According to the Michael Porter five forces analysis framework for industry analysis, Wikipedia and its parent institution Wikimedia are known as "first movers" and "radical innovators" in the services provided and supported by an open-source, on-line encyclopedia.[276] The "five forces" are centered around the issue of "competitive rivalry" within the encyclopedia industry where Wikipedia is seen as having redefined by its "radical innovation" the parameters of effectiveness applied to conventional encyclopedia publication. This is the first force of Porter's five forces analysis.[277] The second force is the "threat of new entrants" with competitive services and products possibly arising on the internet or the web. As a "first mover", Wikipedia has largely eluded the emergence of a fast second to challenge its radical innovation and its standing as the central provider of the services which it offers through the World Wide Web.[278] Porter's third force is the "threat of substitute products" and it is too early to identify Google's "Knowledge Graphs" as an effective competitor given the current dependence of "Knowledge Graphs" upon Wikipedia's free access to its open-source services.[276] The fourth force in the Porter five forces analysis is the "bargaining power of consumers" who use the services provided by Wikipedia, which has historically largely been nullified by the Wikipedia founding principle of an open invitation to expand and edit its content expressed in its moniker of being "the encyclopedia which anyone can edit."[277] The fifth force in the Porter five forces analysis is defined as the "bargaining power of suppliers", presently seen as the open domain of both the global internet as a whole and the resources of public libraries world-wide, and therefore it is not seen as a limiting factor in the immediate future of the further development of Wikipedia.[276]

Internal news publications

Community-produced news publications include the English Wikipedia's The Signpost, founded in 2005 by Michael Snow, an attorney, Wikipedia administrator and former chair of the Wikimedia Foundation board of trustees.[279] It covers news and events from the site, as well as major events from other Wikimedia projects, such as Wikimedia Commons. Similar publications are the German-language Kurier, and the Portuguese-language Correro da Wikipédia. Other past and present community news publications on English Wikipedia include the "Wikiworld" web comic, the Wikipedia Weekly podcast, and newsletters of specific WikiProjects like The Bugle from WikiProject Military History and the monthly newsletter from The Guild of Copy Editors. There are also a number of publications from the Wikimedia Foundation and multilingual publications such as the Wikimedia Blog and This Month in Education.

Access to content

Content licensing

When the project was started in 2001, all text in Wikipedia was covered by GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), a copyleft license permitting the redistribution, creation of derivative works, and commercial use of content while authors retain copyright of their work.[280] GFDL was created for software manuals that come with free software programs licensed under GPL. This made it a poor choice for a general reference work; for example, the GFDL requires the reprints of materials from Wikipedia to come with a full copy of the GFDL license text. In December 2002, the Creative Commons license was released: it was specifically designed for creative works in general, not just for software manuals. The license gained popularity among bloggers and others distributing creative works on the Web. The Wikipedia project sought the switch to the Creative Commons.[281] Because the two licenses, GFDL and Creative Commons, were incompatible, in November 2008, following the request of the project, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) released a new version of GFDL designed specifically to allow Wikipedia to relicense its content to CC BY-SA by August 1, 2009. (A new version of GFDL automatically covers Wikipedia contents.) In April 2009, Wikipedia and its sister projects held a community-wide referendum which decided the switch in June 2009.[282][283][284][285]

The handling of media files (e.g. image files) varies across language editions. Some language editions, such as the English Wikipedia, include non-free image files under fair use doctrine, while the others have opted not to, in part because of the lack of fair use doctrines in their home countries (e.g. in Japanese copyright law). Media files covered by free content licenses (e.g. Creative Commons' CC BY-SA) are shared across language editions via Wikimedia Commons repository, a project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia's accommodation of varying international copyright laws regarding images has led some to observe that its photographic coverage of topics lags behind the quality of the encyclopedic text.[286]

The Wikimedia Foundation is not a licensor of content, but merely a hosting service for the contributors (and licensors) of the Wikipedia. This position has been successfully defended in court.[287][288]

Methods of access

Because Wikipedia content is distributed under an open license, anyone can reuse or re-distribute it at no charge. The content of Wikipedia has been published in many forms, both online and offline, outside of the Wikipedia website.

  • Websites – Thousands of "mirror sites" exist that republish content from Wikipedia: two prominent ones, that also include content from other reference sources, are Reference.com and Answers.com. Another example is Wapedia, which began to display Wikipedia content in a mobile-device-friendly format before Wikipedia itself did.
  • Mobile apps – A variety of mobile apps provide access to Wikipedia on hand-held devices, including both Android and iOS devices (see Wikipedia apps). (See also Mobile access.)
  • Search engines – Some web search engines make special use of Wikipedia content when displaying search results: examples include Bing (via technology gained from Powerset)[289] and Duck Duck Go.
  • Compact discs, DVDs – Collections of Wikipedia articles have been published on optical discs. An English version, 2006 Wikipedia CD Selection, contained about 2,000 articles.[290][291] The Polish-language version contains nearly 240,000 articles.[292] There are German- and Spanish-language versions as well.[293][294] Also, "Wikipedia for Schools", the Wikipedia series of CDs / DVDs produced by Wikipedians and SOS Children, is a free, hand-checked, non-commercial selection from Wikipedia targeted around the UK National Curriculum and intended to be useful for much of the English-speaking world.[295] The project is available online; an equivalent print encyclopedia would require roughly 20 volumes.
  • Books – There are efforts to put a select subset of Wikipedia's articles into printed book form.[296][297] Since 2009, tens of thousands of print on demand books which reproduced English, German, Russian and French Wikipedia articles have been produced by the American company Books LLC and by three Mauritian subsidiaries of the German publisher VDM.[298]
  • Semantic Web – The website DBpedia, begun in 2007, extracts data from the infoboxes and category declarations of the English-language Wikipedia. Wikimedia has created the Wikidata project with a similar objective of storing the basic facts from each page of Wikipedia and the other WMF wikis and make it available in a queriable semantic format, RDF. This is still under development. As of Feb 2014 it has 15,000,000 items and 1,000 properties for describing them.

Obtaining the full contents of Wikipedia for reuse presents challenges, since direct cloning via a web crawler is discouraged.[299] Wikipedia publishes "dumps" of its contents, but these are text-only; as of 2007 there was no dump available of Wikipedia's images.[300]

Several languages of Wikipedia also maintain a reference desk, where volunteers answer questions from the general public. According to a study by Pnina Shachaf in the Journal of Documentation, the quality of the Wikipedia reference desk is comparable to a standard library reference desk, with an accuracy of 55%.[301]

Mobile access

See also: Help:Mobile access
The mobile version of the English Wikipedia's main page

Wikipedia's original medium was for users to read and edit content using any standard web browser through a fixed Internet connection. Although Wikipedia content has been accessible through the mobile web since July 2013, The New York Times on 9 February 2014 quoted Erik Moller, deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, stating that the transition of internet traffic from desktops to mobile devices was significant and a cause for concern and worry.[13] The The New York Times article reported the comparison statistics for mobile edits stating that, "Only 20 percent of the readership of the English-language Wikipedia comes via mobile devices, a figure substantially lower than the percentage of mobile traffic for other media sites, many of which approach 50 percent. And the shift to mobile editing has lagged even more."[13] The New York Times reports that Mr. Moller of Wikimedia has assigned "a team of 10 software developers focused on mobile," out of a total of approximately 200 employees working at the Wikimedia Foundation. One principal concern cited by The New York Times for the "worry" is for Wikipedia to effectively address attrition issues with the number of editors which the on-line encyclopedia attracts to edit and maintain its content in a mobile access environment.[13]

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported in July 2014 that Google's Android mobile apps have dominated the largest share of global smartphone shipments for 2013 with 78.6% of market share over their next closest competitor in IOS with 15.2% of the market.[302] At the time of the Tretikov appointment and her posted web interview with Sue Gardner in May 2014, Wikimedia representatives made a technical announcement concerning the number of mobile access systems in the market seeking access to Wikipedia. Directly after the posted web interview, the representatives stated that Wikimedia would be applying an all-inclusive approach to accommodate as many mobile access systems as possible in its efforts for expanding general mobile access, including BlackBerry and the Windows Phone system, making market share a secondary issue.[238] The latest version of the Android app for Wikipedia was released on 23 July 2014 to generally positive reviews scoring over 4 on a scale of 5 at a poll of approximately 200,000 users downloading from Google.[303] The latest version for IOS was released on 3 April 2013 to similar reviews.[304]

Access to Wikipedia from mobile phones was possible as early as 2004, through the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), via the Wapedia service. In June 2007 Wikipedia launched en.mobile.wikipedia.org, an official website for wireless devices. In 2009 a newer mobile service was officially released,[305] located at en.m.wikipedia.org, which caters to more advanced mobile devices such as the iPhone, Android-based devices or WebOS-based devices. Several other methods of mobile access to Wikipedia have emerged. Many devices and applications optimise or enhance the display of Wikipedia content for mobile devices, while some also incorporate additional features such as use of Wikipedia metadata (See Wikipedia:Metadata), such as geoinformation.[306][307]

Wikipedia Zero is an initiative of the Wikimedia Foundation to expand the reach of the encyclopedia to the developing countries.[308]

Impact

Readership

Wikipedia is extremely popular. In February 2014, The New York Times reported that Wikipedia is ranked fifth globally among all websites, stating "With 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors a month [...] Wikipedia trails just Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, the largest with 1.2 billion unique visitors."[13]

In addition to logistic growth in the number of its articles,[309] Wikipedia has steadily gained status as a general reference website since its inception in 2001.[310] About 50% of search engine traffic to Wikipedia comes from Google,[311] a good portion of which is related to academic research.[312] The number of readers of Wikipedia worldwide reached 365 million at the end of 2009.[313] The Pew Internet and American Life project found that one third of US Internet users consulted Wikipedia.[314] In 2011 Business Insider gave Wikipedia a valuation of $4 billion if it ran advertisements.[315]

According to "Wikipedia Readership Survey 2011", the average age of Wikipedia readers is 36, with a rough parity between genders. Almost half of Wikipedia readers visit the site more than five times a month, and a similar number of readers specifically look for Wikipedia in search engine results. About 47% of Wikipedia readers do not realize that Wikipedia is a non-profit organization.[316]

Jean Goodwin has assessed wether the widespread trust in Wikipedia is being based on epistemic or pragmatic merits. While readers may not assess the actual expertise of the authors of a given article, they may assess the contributors' passion for a given article, and communicative design through which that passion is made manifest, and in so far provide a reason for trust.[317]


Cultural significance

Main article: Wikipedia in culture

Wikipedia's content has also been used in academic studies, books, conferences, and court cases.[318][319][320] The Parliament of Canada's website refers to Wikipedia's article on same-sex marriage in the "related links" section of its "further reading" list for the Civil Marriage Act.[321] The encyclopedia's assertions are increasingly used as a source by organizations such as the US federal courts and the World Intellectual Property Organization[322] – though mainly for supporting information rather than information decisive to a case.[323] Content appearing on Wikipedia has also been cited as a source and referenced in some US intelligence agency reports.[324] In December 2008, the scientific journal RNA Biology launched a new section for descriptions of families of RNA molecules and requires authors who contribute to the section to also submit a draft article on the RNA family for publication in Wikipedia.[325]

Wikipedia has also been used as a source in journalism,[326][327] often without attribution, and several reporters have been dismissed for plagiarizing from Wikipedia.[328][329][330]

In 2006, Time magazine recognized Wikipedia's participation (along with YouTube, Reddit, MySpace, and Facebook[331]) in the rapid growth of online collaboration and interaction by millions of people worldwide.

In July 2007 Wikipedia was the focus of a 30-minute documentary on BBC Radio 4[332] which argued that, with increased usage and awareness, the number of references to Wikipedia in popular culture is such that the word is one of a select band of 21st-century nouns that are so familiar (Google, Facebook, YouTube) that they no longer need explanation and are on a par with such 20th-century words as hoovering or Coca-Cola.

On September 28, 2007, Italian politician Franco Grillini raised a parliamentary question with the minister of cultural resources and activities about the necessity of freedom of panorama. He said that the lack of such freedom forced Wikipedia, "the seventh most consulted website", to forbid all images of modern Italian buildings and art, and claimed this was hugely damaging to tourist revenues.[333]

Jimmy Wales receiving the Quadriga A Mission of Enlightenment award

On September 16, 2007, The Washington Post reported that Wikipedia had become a focal point in the 2008 US election campaign, saying: "Type a candidate's name into Google, and among the first results is a Wikipedia page, making those entries arguably as important as any ad in defining a candidate. Already, the presidential entries are being edited, dissected and debated countless times each day."[334] An October 2007 Reuters article, titled "Wikipedia page the latest status symbol", reported the recent phenomenon of how having a Wikipedia article vindicates one's notability.[335]

Active participation also has an impact. Law students have been assigned to write Wikipedia articles as an exercise in clear and succinct writing for an uninitiated audience.[336]

Awards

Wikipedia won two major awards in May 2004.[337] The first was a Golden Nica for Digital Communities of the annual Prix Ars Electronica contest; this came with a €10,000 (£6,588; $12,700) grant and an invitation to present at the PAE Cyberarts Festival in Austria later that year. The second was a Judges' Webby Award for the "community" category.[338] Wikipedia was also nominated for a "Best Practices" Webby award.

In 2007, readers of brandchannel.com voted Wikipedia as the fourth-highest brand ranking, receiving 15% of the votes in answer to the question "Which brand had the most impact on our lives in 2006?"[339]

In September 2008, Wikipedia received Quadriga A Mission of Enlightenment award of Werkstatt Deutschland along with Boris Tadić, Eckart Höfling, and Peter Gabriel. The award was presented to Wales by David Weinberger.[340]

Satire

Wikipedia page on Atlantic Records being edited to read: "You suck!"
Wikipedia shown in "Weird Al" Yankovic's music video for his song "White & Nerdy"

Many parodies target Wikipedia's openness and susceptibility to inserted inaccuracies, with characters vandalizing or modifying the online encyclopedia project's articles.

Comedian Stephen Colbert has parodied or referenced Wikipedia on numerous episodes of his show The Colbert Report and coined the related term wikiality, meaning "together we can create a reality that we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on".[185] Another example can be found in "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years of American Independence", a July 2006 front-page article in The Onion.,[341] as well as the 2010 The Onion article "'L.A. Law' Wikipedia Page Viewed 874 Times Today".[342]

"My Number One Doctor", a 2007 episode of the television show Scrubs, played on the perception that Wikipedia is an unreliable reference tool with a scene in which Dr. Perry Cox reacts to a patient who says that a Wikipedia article indicates that the raw food diet reverses the effects of bone cancer by retorting that the same editor who wrote that article also wrote the Battlestar Galactica episode guide.[343]

In 2008, the comedic website CollegeHumor produced a video sketch named "Professor Wikipedia", in which the fictitious Professor Wikipedia instructs a class with a medley of unverifiable and occasionally absurd statements.[344]

The Dilbert comic strip from May 8, 2009, features a character supporting an improbable claim by saying "Give me ten minutes and then check Wikipedia."[345]

In July 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a comedy series called Bigipedia, which was set on a website which was a parody of Wikipedia. Some of the sketches were directly inspired by Wikipedia and its articles.[346]

In 2010, comedian Daniel Tosh encouraged viewers of his show, Tosh.0, to visit the show's Wikipedia article and edit it at will. On a later episode, he commented on the edits to the article, most of them offensive, which had been made by the audience and had prompted the article to be locked from editing.[347][348]

On August 23, 2013, the New Yorker website published a cartoon with this caption: "Dammit, Manning, have you considered the pronoun war that this is going to start on your Wikipedia page?"[349]

Sister projects – Wikimedia

Main article: Wikimedia project

Wikipedia has also spawned several sister projects, which are also wikis run by the Wikimedia Foundation. These other Wikimedia projects include Wiktionary, a dictionary project launched in December 2002,[350] Wikiquote, a collection of quotations created a week after Wikimedia launched, Wikibooks, a collection of collaboratively written free textbooks and annotated texts, Wikimedia Commons, a site devoted to free-knowledge multimedia, Wikinews, for citizen journalism, and Wikiversity, a project for the creation of free learning materials and the provision of online learning activities.[351] Of these, only Commons has had success comparable to that of Wikipedia. Another sister project of Wikipedia, Wikispecies, is a catalogue of species. In 2012 Wikivoyage, an editable travel guide, and Wikidata, an editable knowledge base, launched.

Publishing

A group of Wikimedians of the Wikimedia DC chapter at the 2013 DC Wikimedia annual meeting standing in front of the Encyclopædia Britannica (back left) at the US National Archives

The most obvious economic effect of Wikipedia has been the death of commercial encyclopedias, especially the printed versions, e.g. Encyclopaedia Britannica, which were unable to compete with a product that is essentially free.[352][353][354] Nicholas Carr wrote a 2005 essay, "The amorality of Web 2.0", that criticized websites with user-generated content, like Wikipedia, for possibly leading to professional (and, in his view, superior) content producers going out of business, because "free trumps quality all the time". Carr wrote: "Implicit in the ecstatic visions of Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the amateur. I for one can't imagine anything more frightening."[355] Others dispute the notion that Wikipedia, or similar efforts, will entirely displace traditional publications. For instance, Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, wrote in Nature that the "wisdom of crowds" approach of Wikipedia will not displace top scientific journals, with their rigorous peer review process.[356]

There is also an ongoing debate about the influence of Wikipedia on the biography publishing business. "The worry is that, if you can get all that information from Wikipedia, what's left for biography?" Said Kathryn Hughes, professor of life writing at UEA and author of The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot: the Last Victorian.[357]

Scientific use

In computational linguistics, information retrieval and natural language processing, Wikipedia has seen widespread use as a corpus for linguistic research. In particular, it commonly serves as a target knowledge base for the entity linking problem, which is then called "wikification",[358] and to the related problem of word sense disambiguation.[359] Methods similar to wikification can in turn be used to find "missing" links in Wikipedia.[360]

Related projects

A number of interactive multimedia encyclopedias incorporating entries written by the public existed long before Wikipedia was founded. The first of these was the 1986 BBC Domesday Project, which included text (entered on BBC Micro computers) and photographs from over 1 million contributors in the UK, and covered the geography, art, and culture of the UK. This was the first interactive multimedia encyclopedia (and was also the first major multimedia document connected through internal links), with the majority of articles being accessible through an interactive map of the UK. The user interface and part of the content of the Domesday Project were emulated on a website until 2008.[361]

One of the most successful early online encyclopedias incorporating entries by the public was h2g2, which was created by Douglas Adams. The h2g2 encyclopedia is relatively light-hearted, focusing on articles which are both witty and informative. Everything2 was created in 1998. All of these projects had similarities with Wikipedia, but were not wikis and neither gave full editorial privileges to public users.

GNE, an encyclopedia which was not a wiki, also created in January 2001, co-existed with Nupedia and Wikipedia early in its history; however, it has been retired.[110]

Other websites centered on collaborative knowledge base development have drawn inspiration from Wikipedia. Some, such as Susning.nu, Enciclopedia Libre, Hudong, and Baidu Baike likewise employ no formal review process, although some like Conservapedia are not as open. Others use more traditional peer review, such as Encyclopedia of Life and the online wiki encyclopedias Scholarpedia and Citizendium. The latter was started by Sanger in an attempt to create a reliable alternative to Wikipedia.[362][363]

See also

Special searches

References

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Notes

  1. ^ Registration is required for certain tasks such as editing protected pages, creating pages in the English Wikipedia, and uploading files.
  2. ^ Revisions with libelous content, criminal threats, or copyright infringements may be removed completely.
  3. ^ See "Libel" by David McHam for the legal distinction

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