Wikipedia:FAQ/Overview

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Overview FAQ
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What is Wikipedia?

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Wikipedia is an online free-content encyclopedia that you can edit and contribute to. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has described Wikipedia as "an effort to create and distribute a multilingual free encyclopedia of the highest quality to every single person on the planet in his or her own language." Wikipedia exists to bring knowledge to everyone who seeks it.

Who owns Wikipedia?

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Who owns the Web site? Wikipedia's tech framework is supported by a non-profit parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation, which also supports Wikipedia's sister projects, including Wiktionary (a wiki dictionary), Wikibooks (textbooks), and others, and owns all of their domain names. Previously, the site was hosted on the servers of Bomis, Inc., a company mostly owned by Jimmy Wales. With the announcement of the Wikimedia Foundation on June 20, 2003, the ownership of all domain names was transferred to the Foundation. The site is run by the community of Wikipedians guided by the principles articulated by Jimmy Wales, including, for example, an adherence to a neutral point of view.
Who owns the encyclopedia articles? The articles hosted on this site have been edited by many people, each of whom has (by editing the article) agreed to release their contributions under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. As such, the articles are free content and may be reproduced freely under this license. See Wikipedia:Copyrights and Wikipedia:Readers' FAQ for information on how you can use Wikipedia content.
By law, the contributions are still owned by the people who donated them. These people are not bound by the license and can use their property in the way they like. However, media with multiple authors require permission from every contributor to use them differently from the terms of the Wikipedia license.

Who is responsible for the articles on Wikipedia?

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You are! Actually, you could even edit this very FAQ, so long as each edit is helpful. Editing is a collaborative effort. Millions of people have contributed information to different parts of this project, and anyone can do so, including you. All you need is to know how to edit a page, and have some encyclopedic knowledge, which you would like to share. The encyclopedia provides users with a certain amount of freedom.
You can learn who is responsible for the most recent versions of any given page by clicking on the "View history" link. Nevertheless, if you spot an error in the latest revision of an article, you are highly encouraged to be bold and correct it. This practice is one of the basic review mechanisms that maintains the reliability of the encyclopedia. As a result, Wikipedia has become one of the most extensive information libraries available on the Internet.
If you are uncertain, or find the wording confusing, quote the material on the associated talk page and leave a question for the next person. This helps reduce errors, inaccuracies, or misleading wording more quickly and is highly appreciated by the community itself.

How can I contact the project?

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See Wikipedia:Contact us for important links and e-mail addresses.
Given the massively collaborative nature of the project, there is no single point of contact. If you send an e-mail to an individual board or staff member, they will likely just forward it to the group of Wikipedia volunteers who answer reader inquiries. You can reach those volunteers yourself, by e-mailing info-en@wikimedia.org.
Alternatively, if you wish to suggest improvements to a specific article, you can do so via its talk page. Use the talk tab at the top of each article to get to its talk page.

Should I create an account? Can't I just edit articles anonymously?

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Editors with user names enjoy several benefits. Among them is the positive reputation that goes with quality work. Wikipedians with an established history are respected especially with regard to neutralizing article disputes. In addition, Wikipedians sometimes find collaborating with anonymous users frustrating, because it is more difficult to contact them with questions, concerns, or suggestions. This is not to say there is a Wikipedia hierarchy per se. Although there are editors with administrative abilities (see Wikipedia:Administrators), these are approved by the community.
Wikipedians with user names are, in a sense, more anonymous than contributors that do not log in. That is, while anyone can see the IP address of a user who did not log in when he/she edited, only a few, especially trusted people are able to view the IP address of a logged-in user (and this is rarely done). Therefore, if you are concerned about privacy and anonymity, you may prefer to create a user name for yourself in order to hide your IP address.
But editing as an unregistered user is acceptable. Many valuable contributors have made this choice. That said, you will not be able to create or rename pages without a user name. Some pages are also protected from editing by unregistered users in order to prevent vandalism.

How do you know if the information is correct?

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Given that anyone can edit any article, it is, of course, possible for biased, out-of-date, or incorrect information to be posted. However, because there are so many other people reading the articles and monitoring contributions using the Recent Changes page, incorrect information is usually corrected quickly. Thus, the overall accuracy of the encyclopedia is improving all the time. You are encouraged to help by correcting articles, validating content, and providing useful references.
See Wikipedia:Replies to common objections for a longer discussion of this point.

How do you prevent people from ruining articles? (Defacement or vandalism)

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All changes to a page are registered in a "page history", so any defacement can be replaced by an older version of the page. And, in general, recent changes to Wikipedia are automatically listed on a special page for that purpose.
Software robots automatically reverse obvious defacement immediately. Moreover, there are hundreds of people who spend a little time each day watching the list of recent changes on Wikipedia (see Wikipedia:Recent changes patrol). Any user interested in a particular page can add it to a personal "watchlist", which shows when a page is updated and gives the user a chance to check whether that update is a joke or a substantial contribution. Furthermore, many readers who pass by can correct vandalism or erroneous information.
So, the popular pages, which are the most likely to be defaced, are also those that receive the most attention from editors and readers, any of whom can 'revert' vandalism.

To stem a recurrent problem, an article can be temporarily protected from editing and/or user names and IP addresses can be blocked from editing.

Site X seems to be violating Wikipedia's copyright. Do you guys know about this?

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All text on Wikipedia is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (CC-BY-SA), and in most cases, also the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Over 100 sites using Wikipedia for content have been identified, and categorized by their degree of compliance, at Wikipedia:CC-BY-SA Compliance and Wikipedia:GFDL Compliance. Wikipedia:Mirrors and forks has more information, including what to do if someone is violating the CC-BY-SA license or the GFDL.

Which wiki software does Wikipedia run on?

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Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects use the MediaWiki software to facilitate collaborative editing and storage of page histories.
For more information on MediaWiki, see:

What if two people edit the same article at the same time?

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See Help:Edit conflict.

How big is Wikipedia?

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Wikipedia currently has 4,590,045 articles in total in the English version alone. (This article count is also available on the main page.)
In a past comparison of encyclopedias, Wikipedia had about 1,400,000 articles with 340 million words in total, the Encyclopædia Britannica had about 85,000 articles with 55 million words in total, and Microsoft's Encarta had about 63,000 articles and 40 million words in total. See: Wikipedia:Size comparisons.
Thanks to the mass-collaboration of Wikipedians, the enlargement of Wikipedia continues at a rapid pace, a pace much greater than that of conventional encyclopedias.

What can I do about libelous content or an invasion of privacy?

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By design, Wikipedia is quite easy to edit so you can simply revert wrong or hurtful information yourself. However, because every revision is logged, special steps are required to remove this information from the historical record. Please see Wikipedia:Oversight and Wikipedia:Libel for Wikipedia's policy on removing historical revisions, and how to request such a change.




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