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Wikipedia:Replies to common objections

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How do people react to Wikipedia? Some people react strongly. Some are nearly instantly hooked, and love the idea; others think the idea is so absurd as not to require any serious consideration. We try to answer a number of common criticisms of the Wikipedia project on this page. (See also WP:Criticisms for exact quotations of prominent critics.)

Letting any Internet user edit any article at will is absurd

Anyone can edit an article.

My prose


"I can't imagine having my golden prose edited by any passer-by. It's mine, so why would I let others touch it?"

We (on Wikipedia) do not each try to own the additions we make to Wikipedia. We are working together on statements of what is known (what constitutes free human knowledge) about various subjects. Each of us individually benefits from this arrangement. It is difficult to write the perfect article single-handedly, but it becomes easier when working together (hence the saying "many hands make light work"). That, in fact, has been our repeated experience on Wikipedia. Consider the following example:

"I thought I understood Gödel's incompleteness theorems pretty well, and since the then-existing article was short and incomplete, I decided to rewrite it. Since then, several people have chipped in, sometimes rewriting a paragraph, sometimes criticizing an omission, sometimes deleting parts. I didn't agree with all changes, but with most of them. No material is ever lost since Wikipedia stores all previous versions of all articles. So I reverted a few changes back. Overall, the article is now much better than I could ever have written alone."

We assume the population is primarily composed of reasonable people, and that collectively they can eventually arrive at a reasonable conclusion, despite the worst efforts of a very small number of wreckers. It's something akin to optimism.



"Wikipedia will be ruined by cranks who post ridiculous theories on the Internet."

Although cranks do contribute material to Wikipedia, it's easy to delete patent nonsense as soon as it appears on the Recent Changes page.

Some websites say the first moon landing was staged in a movie studio, or describe supposed perpetual motion machines. It is impossible to correct those websites, no matter how wrong they are, because their authors demand complete control over their work. They fail miserably on Wikipedia.

This does not mean idiosyncratic points of view are silenced or deleted, though. Rather, they should be contextualized by attributing them to named advocates. The more idiosyncratic an entry, the more likely challenges to it will be successful. Because no one owns the information in Wikipedia, misinformation can be fixed. In the best case, cranks who are unable to accept critical editing of their writing will find they have no platform and leave; those willing to present their interests in less-biased ways become valuable contributors.

"Some persistent cranks could write up a crankish page on the Holocaust, and keep reverting it back to their version."

However, a better way is to challenge cranks using Wikipedia itself. For example, the Holocaust denial article shows that crank opinions' weaknesses are exposed in a neutral point of view. After all, it is far better to understand and challenge inaccurate claims than simply try to ignore them.

Generally, partisans of all sorts are kept under control. Wikipedians feel pretty strongly about enforcing our non-bias policy. We've managed to work our way to rough consensus on a number of controversial issues. People who stubbornly insist that an article must reflect their personal biases are rare, and then they generally receive a drubbing.

In serious cases, we can block or ban people as a last resort and use technical means to stop them from making further edits to Wikipedia.

Trolls and flamers


"Wikipedia will end up like Usenet (newsgroups) – just a bunch of flame wars."

This problem is a bit larger, but it is dealt with fairly handily by the Wikipedia's social mores, known as Wikiquette. Arguments on article pages are moved either to a corresponding talk page (e.g., Talk:Theory of relativity) or to a new article page presenting the arguments within a neutral context (e.g., operating system advocacy).

Discussion on talk pages centres on article improvement, rather than merits of various competing views. We have an informal but widely respected policy against using talk pages for partisan wrangling independent of article improvement; i.e. we're not going to discuss if the death sentence is a good thing or not and if it should be abolished or not, because the primary purpose of Wikipedia is creating an encyclopedia. Rather, we try to achieve consensus about how to present each viewpoint (of prominent advocates for and against the death penalty) fairly and in proportion.

Usenet lacks abilities absolutely essential to Wikipedia's success: We edit other people's work. We do this all the time on Wikipedia, which encourages creative and collegial collaboration. Or more strongly, on Wikipedia there's no such thing as "other people's work", because no one owns the information. This results in enforcement of community-agreed-upon standards, which is very difficult to achieve in Usenet.

Usenet users pioneered the "FAQ" as a stable document to give answers to questions that had already been thoroughly discussed. These documents, although secondary to the discussion forum, are a useful source of information. Wikipedia in effect turns this process on its head: The article (analogous to the FAQ) is now the focus of the activity, and the discussion is secondary.

Furthermore, Usenet is a debate forum. Wikipedia is, very self-consciously, an encyclopedia project! This provides some agreement on what Wikipedia is not.

The Wiki way focuses on agreement, not disagreement as weblogs, mailing lists, and Usenet often do. There is room for almost anyone to work on Wikipedia, without encountering those who have a truly incompatible view.

There are probably always a few trolls and flamers trying to stir up trouble on Wikipedia. While these folks can be noisy, the great majority of contribution to Wikipedia continues, paying little attention to them. And after all, when things get out of hand, they can be blocked.



"Many ignorant people who think they know stuff will riddle articles with errors and serious omissions."

In all honesty, Wikipedia has a fair bit of well-meaning, but ill-informed and amateurish work. In fact, we welcome it – the prevailing view is that an amateurish article to be improved later is better than nothing, though there is a substantial minority of participants who think otherwise. In any case, when new hands (particularly, experts on the subjects in question) arrive and go to work, the amateurish work is usually straightened out. Really egregious errors tend to be fixed quickly by the thousands of people who read Wikipedia every day. In general, the worse the error, the faster it will be noticed and fixed. As Linus's law states, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

Ideally, amateurs will recognize when they're dealing with an expert, and start contributing differently – by asking questions, saying which bits of an article are unclear, and doing some research "grunt work". Wikipedia benefits from having amateurs and experts work together. Think of the great way "Amateurs" or newcomers to writing can learn how to be better at the skill.

"Professionals" can and do come in to correct errors later. But we must create a framework, terminology and conventions that make sense to amateurs. By making it easy for amateurs, we increase the amount of content, and enable easy achievement of critical mass. Conversely, we must create a framework and conventions that allow professionals to contribute without being frustrated by having to repeatedly correct errors introduced by tenacious but ill-informed amateurs. Admittedly, Wikipedia could do better at this. However, by building a decent text base that can then have its kinks ironed out by serious scholars, and by providing an interface and update protocol tolerable and respectful enough for people to use, we make stone soup.

Also, it's much more time-efficient for an amateur to write an article because the corrections by a professional will usually be minor. In any field, professionals are few compared to amateurs and are generally busy. Therefore, an extensive collection of knowledge is much better off with amateur contributions, as long as readers recognize this, and have a way to discern an article's history. Whether readers truly recognize this is not clear.

Perhaps most importantly, amateurs or experts should not be themselves conceiving or discovering the information that appears in Wikipedia, though they are encouraged to create and edit pages with information from other sources. Wikipedia does not allow original research and instead tries to only report verifiable information as it appears in reliable sources. While not everyone can be an expert in all fields, just about anyone can read and reliably report on the work of others. When a Wikipedia article is written to the highest standards, it extensively cites the work of experts. You don't need to be an expert to read and cite the work of experts; though experts in their fields have greater access to published works, in theory anyone could cite these published works, whether a certified "expert" or not.

"What if an article never gets corrected and over time, just gets worse?"

This is very unlikely to ever happen on Wikipedia since it is being monitored and being used every day. If this were ever to happen, it would at some point be corrected. There is always an article being edited on Wikipedia every day whether it is sincere or purposefully being vandalized.



"There are plenty of partisans who are all too eager to leave out information that is important to presenting a balanced view. They'll be delighted to post to Wikipedia, and that's going to create huge gaps in your coverage, which will ruin the project."

Frequently the initial author omits crucial information, whether due to ignorance or malice. In many cases, but not all, this is fixed quickly by the many people reading Wikipedia every day. For example, Wikipedia has fairly decent, balanced articles about war, propaganda, abortion, Scientology, and prostitution. Wikipedia is actually notable as a means of coming to agreements on controversy, and has been studied by some researchers for its ability to neutralize the often noxious debates on such topics.[citation needed] Very often it is easy to find a related topic on which many such partisans can work in relative peace and can come to agree on methods and even facts. Also, remember partisans from all sides try to push their views on Wikipedia. An example of this is the Cornwall page in which the difficulties over Cornwall's legal status and its relationship to England have over time been worked into what is a largely acceptable form of words to all parties.



"What about advertisers? Will those with a product or service to hawk see the opportunity to hit a targeted market and write new articles for their product or worse, edit the article that corresponds to their generic product class (e.g., computer) to an ad for their product?"

This kind of thing has already happened. There are basically three forms: adding excessive external links to one's company, outright replacing of legitimate articles with advertising, and writing glowing articles on one's own company. The first and second forms are treated as pure vandalism and the articles are reverted. Most Wikipedians loathe spam, and spammers are dealt with especially severely. The third form is normally dealt with by editing the article for a neutral point of view or by deleting the article.

Corporate advertisers would likely not find Wikipedia to be an attractive advertising medium. In traditional web-based advertising, such as banner ads, popup ads, and email advertising, the response rate can be directly measured, either through web bugs or server logs. If a company used Wikipedia to peddle its goods, the response rate could not be measured.

Not being able to measure results may not stop individuals who want to advertise their new multi-level marketing scheme, but unless they're using a bot (see next section), it takes a lot of time and energy to keep reverting the page back to the advertisement, so that the would-be spammer would get their message viewed (in an uneditable form!) more often and more reliably by using a traditional advertising medium.

Ironically, advertising spam can actually be beneficial to Wikipedia. Suppose an advertiser for body building products edited that page to an ad for its product. A reader who happens by and sees the spam could copy the advertisement, revert the page to its previous state, and then add information discussing the advertiser's specific methods or claims to the wealth of knowledge on the subject. In effect, advertisers' claims, when tempered and weighed against other knowledge associated with the subject, can yield a more robust article than before.

For more information, see Wikipedia:Spam.



"You still haven't addressed the real bane of Usenet: massive automated spamming. It would be trivial to write a script to post weight-loss ads to all Wikipedia pages, and once spammers or vandals start to use wikibots, you're sitting ducks."

There are scripts to deface wikis, primarily aiming for increased PageRank in search engines, but there are several things that keep this from being too much of a problem. It's easy to revert spam, and anyone can do so. We can already block IP addresses, which serves as a basic form of spam filtering.

Wikipedia also uses wikibots for good purposes. Bots run by Wikipedia volunteers detect and revert spam. These bots must be approved and are then supervised by contributors.

Wikipedia also has the ability to install CAPTCHA and other spam-blocking methods if the need exists.

Wikipedia is also an unattractive spam target for well-established legal reasons. Most countries do not have laws against USENET or email spam, but most have laws against unauthorised website defacement – what we call vandalism.

"What do you do if people start running scripts to repost their own bit of vandalism or spam, and from different locations so you can't just block their IP address?"

This would be similar to a distributed denial of service attack, which major websites occasionally fall victim to. Wikipedia has suffered some such attacks, and so far it's been much easier to block the attacks than for the vandal to devise new attacks. If someone launches an extensive attack, all offending IP addresses can be blocked from further editing by the admins. We can develop ad hoc technical measures to disallow certain edits, or to revert edits that meet certain criteria. For example, measures are already in place that prohibit links to certain problematic web sites. Since some trusted members of the community have direct access to the page database, these measures can be effected more rapidly and with less effort than is expended by spammers to deface pages. In an emergency, we can revert all changes made since a certain time. Also, we could disable editing or account creation temporarily. The spam problem on Wikipedia has never gotten so bad as to require one of these emergency methods due to our large base of dedicated volunteers.

Systemic bias


"Wikipedia coverage is heavily biased by the sorts of people who want to contribute to it."

This seems to be a perfectly legitimate concern. Certainly, Wikipedia coverage is patchy. It's easy to find examples of a really long article on one subject, whereas another, equally important subject, has a very short article (there's even a website dedicated to this effect). Sometimes this is just the result of a single enthusiastic contributor. Other times it is due to systemic bias.

The English Wikipedia's largest bias is in favour of Western topics, and particularly topics relevant to English-speaking nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and so on. People will probably always prefer to write about familiar subjects, but it doesn't mean there isn't considerable and constantly increasing depth to the coverage of many other areas of the world too. As foreign-language Wikipedias gain depth, some of their articles are translated into English for the English Wikipedia, which can help to mitigate this bias. Also, many of our early contributors were 'nerds' of various descriptions — hackers, scientists/academics and so on — and, as such, our science and technology coverage was initially far deeper and broader than our arts and humanities coverage. That may still be true to some extent, but it is becoming less and less clear cut. Sue Gardner and her staff at Wikimedia stated in 2010 that one of their priorities is to increase diversity among Wikipedia contributors.

Also, while the percentages of people working on less popular topics might remain low, the absolute numbers of such people have increased since the early years of Wikipedia, growing the content in those areas. Because Wikipedia doesn't have a time limit, it's more important that each area eventually get the coverage it deserves, than that it be balanced. Even if the computer and mathematics areas, for example, grow faster than the dance and literature areas, we hope and believe the latter topics will gradually receive increased and deepening coverage. For example, in 2006, no operas or operettas were featured articles. By 2009, there were over a dozen opera- and Savoy opera-related featured articles.

Another solution we actively engage in is to target the weak areas by recruiting contributors for those areas in various ways, for example by using Wikiprojects and edit-a-thons. More and more people are becoming aware of Wikipedia. See Wikipedia Statistics

Deletion and changes


"What if somebody tries to delete a section of an article, or add a couple of words to alter its meaning? Does Wikipedia back up its articles? Does Wikipedia scrutinize its articles for even the smallest changes made to less popular articles? Also, does all this mean the content of articles is subject to constant changes in meaning and detail, and that an article will be completely different over time?"

These are problems handled by Wikipedia's version system. We effectively retain all previous versions of every article, as it was at each point in time, and each of these versions can be individually viewed. Even deleted articles can be undeleted. This allows any change to be reversed or partially reversed with little effort.

So-called sneaky vandalism, where a few words are inserted in a way intended to change the meaning without being noticed, is rarely effective, because we do not scrutinize articles for changes manually – instead we rely on software features which plainly mark for our review the differences between two versions of an article. Our technology, together with certain telltale signs learned from experience, makes such vandalism easy to detect. We also employ technological methods to detect and remove vandalism.

It is true that articles change over time, eventually into what may seem to be an entirely new article. This is by design – a brief look at an older paper encyclopedia will show you that, even when the subject is historical, what we know about the subject and our attitude toward it is a rapidly moving target. This problem is exacerbated with modern topics like software and current events. By allowing gradual changes to be made over time, we continuously adapt to new information and new perspectives in a way static encyclopedias cannot.

Many of the criticisms leveled at Wikipedia are not unique to it, but are the result of Wikipedia being, at its core, a wiki. Many of the same objections have been made to other wikis.

Wikipedia can never be high quality


Various forms of provenance have been proposed for Wikipedia (see Wikipedia:Provenance). Such proposals are quite controversial (see Wikipedia talk:Provenance). However, providing provenance could help address many of the issues discussed below. The stable versions and flagged revisions proposals are to introduce an anti-wiki concept of fixed versions that have been vetted to be high quality.

Under construction


"A giant 'under construction' sign should be on almost every article."

Well, some pages are better than others. Some Wikipedia articles on esoteric subjects are the best resource you will find online (See Nafaanra language, execution by elephant, Rupert D'Oyly Carte or exploding whale). In addition, many Wikipedia articles on more popular subjects, though lacking multimedia extravaganzas, are extremely informative one-stop sources for information about their subjects. See, for example, Hamlet.

Equally, we have articles that are stubs, are inaccurate, are biased, are poorly written or proofread, or are just plain rubbish. That comes with our ambitious goals and the way we work. And on many of these articles, such as stubs, we do actually have under construction signs! Our system is to gradually improve articles that are incomplete or need editing.

Wikipedia is both a product and a process. Even where the product is not perfect, the process ensures that, at the end of every day, the encyclopedia is higher quality than it was at the beginning of the day. We will likely never attain perfection, but we aim for the highest quality project.

Shortage of intellectuals


"Wikipedia lacks upstanding intellectuals and highly qualified contributors. After all, Wikipedia will take anything from anybody!"

It's fair to say the majority of our contributors are at college or undergraduate level in the subjects they write about. So, the article on Physics is more likely to be written by someone taking a degree in physics than, say, Stephen Hawking (when he was living). In addition, this may offer an "entry level" researcher a more mundane explanation based on the creativity of previous contributors to deeply complex concepts, e.g. Quantum entanglement.

Experts often write for an audience of other experts, whereas Wikipedia is read by the general public – people who are unfamiliar with a subject and want a quick introduction to that subject, not an expert treatment. Since students are familiar with problems they are themselves encountering while learning about a given subject, they are more adept at drafting treatments of that subject suitable for the general public.

Still, plenty of "intellectuals" participate in Wikipedia. Our mathematics section, for example, benefits greatly from the dedication of several mathematicians who are very active on Wikipedia; our string theory articles have recently been expanded by a Harvard physics professor. (Who knows, maybe Stephen Hawking was a Wikipedia contributor too!)

Of course, arguing in the alternative one could also call into question the value of "upstanding" and "highly qualified" by pointing out that they often fail to take into account theories and ideas outside the scope of their respective spheres, such as academia, government, or an activist movement.

Motives of intellectuals


"Why would highly qualified people get involved with Wikipedia? Why should any researcher care about it, since it's not a serious reference work?"

First of all, what does serious mean? Serious can mean:
  • Timely and up to date
  • Open to change all the time, with no unalterable dogmas
  • Immune to political or economic pressure

Wikipedia provides free, unlimited server space and well-designed page construction tools for anyone doing something that fits within the Wikipedia mission and doesn't care about owning the information: a description that matches the archetypal academic researcher. Academics generally get their jobs because they like learning and/or teaching others. We do both here.

It can be fun for intellectually serious people if we know we're creating something of quality. It's part of the volunteer ethic – the joy of helping others. And, as explained above, many people believe we are creating something of quality here.

A characteristic of most intellectuals is that they have "something to say", some facts or interpretations or syntheses they wish to present. Wikipedia is an efficient medium for this process, reaching a far larger audience than any academic publication, and without the delays inherent to the peer review process.

Errors and omissions


"I looked at an area I know something about, and found all sorts of errors and omissions. I was surprised and amused. I don't want to be associated with something of this low quality."

Then contribute anonymously or under a pseudonym until you improve things to the point you are happy putting your name on them, but don't actually sign or author them. Many people do that. We're glad they do. The whole concept of authorship is not germane to wikis anyway. Bad articles cannot be credited to you because Wikipedia articles aren't credited to anyone!

We, too, deplore bad work: we just go ahead and fix the problems we see. It would be great if you would help us by doing the same. We also think there's much on Wikipedia we can be proud of, so look at the best bits of Wikipedia, as well as the worst.

If the main thing that's stopping you at this point is that some articles in one area of Wikipedia are of substandard quality, we'd ask you to come back next year, or the year after. See if the mistakes in those articles haven't been corrected, and a lot more details supplied. Soon enough, we're sure the project will be something you want to be associated with.

Also, all encyclopedias have errors. A 12-year-old schoolboy found five errors in the Encyclopædia Britannica within a matter of days. His only recourse was to write to the editor, meaning the errors may be corrected in print in a few years, as opposed to minutes on Wikipedia, where any changes are visible to readers almost immediately since it runs on the Internet. Also, using the versioning system, users can determine when and what changes were made to a specific article.

Stubs are stupid


"Currently Wikipedia is stupid. I looked up a topic I know something about and found a few words. That's ridiculous!"

Chances are you were reading about something obscure: Wikipedia has a stub on many subjects on which some or all traditional encyclopedias lack an entry – it's better to have a small bit of information on a topic, than none at all. Also, even though it's short, a stub for an obscure topic might provide you with a link or ten to useful resources elsewhere on the Internet. A traditional encyclopedia won't do that for you.

There are many "stub" entries, and we share your opinion of their ridiculousness. Yet mighty articles can grow from little stubs. Remember, all articles need to start somewhere! As people find or fix stubs, Wikipedia improves. Equally, stubs are created on subjects where we used to have no article at all! Stubs are a consequence of Wikipedia's "continual improvement", and we're not ashamed of that.

You can help us, too. Be bold and edit the article and add your knowledge. (Don't forget to cite your sources!)



"It seems Britannica has extremely high standards for what they put into their publications, both online and offline. Wikipedia has no such standards, so it's bound to be low quality."

Wikipedia does have standards – the ones followed by each contributor, and in some cases, these are very high standards indeed. (For example, we require all contributors to cite their sources.) As traffic increases, so will expert help, and as gaps are filled in, the only way remaining for Wikipedia to improve will be in quality and depth. This, in turn, is likely to attract more experts, who follow their own very high standards. To make a claim about what standards Wikipedia follows is to make a claim about what standards present and future Wikipedia contributors follow; the current standard is always changing. To say such people have no standards is baseless.



"When it is good, Britannica is so partly because it is authoritative, by being selective. Wikipedia isn't selective about its authors; hence it will never be authoritative."

The high quality of Britannica's articles is very important. Certainly it was achieved through high standards. However, is restricting who writes about what the best way to reach and maintain high standards? Perhaps a more open way is better. Wikipedia is a good test of that proposition. We have, after all, produced excellent articles – and, by the way, not all were written by the many Ph.D.s and other highly credentialed people who contribute to Wikipedia. We are selective with what we keep, however. If an article or an edit isn't up to our standards, we will improve it or remove it.

Mixing ignorance and knowledge


"Good quality requires peer review and expertise. Why should we care about articles written by an arbitrary group of people whose knowledge and ability could range from expertise to hopeless ignorance? Ignorance mixed with knowledge does not benefit knowledge."

The hypothesis that openness is to the benefit of quality has already been tested, and to the benefit of the hypothesis: articles that have been worked on by many different people in the context of Wikipedia are now comparable to articles that can be found in some excellent encyclopedias. If, however, you insist on considering the hypothesis a priori, please ask yourself: which is more likely to be correct?
  1. A widely circulated article, subject to scrutiny, correction, and potentially constant improvement over a period of months or years, by vast numbers of experts and enthusiasts, possibly updated mere minutes before you read it.
  2. An article written by a nonspecialist professional writer or scholar (as many encyclopedia articles are), mostly shielded from public review and improvement, likely years ago, possibly a year or more before it was even published.

Attribution and references


"Look, all this speculation and 'experimentation' is fine and well, but if there's one thing I've learned in my studies, it's that you must know something about the author and his/her qualifications to speak on the topic – or at least be provided with appropriate references to support his/her claims in order to evaluate the validity of a nonfiction work."

That certainly seems reasonable, but here are some counter-points: First, an increasing number of Wikipedia articles do have references, which we encourage through an official policy: cite your sources.

In fact, many of the well-developed articles seem to have more diverse and numerous references than most traditional encyclopedias. Do you recall ever seeing a Britannica or Encarta article with hundreds of footnotes in it?

Second, as the number of participants increase, so does the number of experts bringing weak articles up to par – while you may be unaware of which experts worked on an article, if you know an article existed for many months and some experts in that topic contribute, it's fairly likely those experts have already reviewed the article. In other words, knowledge of the process, and of the fact that it includes experts in many fields, may be better than knowing a particular (alleged) expert has written a particular article. Perhaps the relevant question is: "How expert is the Wikipedia contributor community?" The answer is, "We have experts in many different fields, and new highly qualified people arrive all the time." All we require is a few experts continuously "raising the bar" from the beginning of the project. It is quite all right if very many or even most experts fail to help, or think poorly of us.

A traditional encyclopedia might hire a specialist on the topic to write an article. But we have a large number of those specialists volunteering their time here, as well as specialists from other fields – doctors, engineers, soldiers, political activists, cooks, comic book fiends, etc. ... this means you get a much wider range of perspectives, and thus a more complete understanding of the topic.

Third, an approval mechanism will be installed if we find it beneficial. Alternately, because the content is free, someone may start a project that "approves" Wikipedia content itself.

Accepting edits


"Indeed, then, I should like to see some means of peer review before edits are accepted on articles which have already been approved by some similar process of peer review. At the moment it is entirely in the hands of an individual whether he thinks a modification he intends is an improvement, so there comes a point when a modification is as likely to damage the resource. If some system could be installed, then you would protect against crank attacks as well as misjudgment, and ensure a continually improving resource."

As a community, almost all of us are opposed to what has been called the policy of completely "freezing" particular pages – so they can be edited only by a select group of people (e.g., only the author and an "editor"). We feel our own collective monitoring of Recent Changes is an adequate safeguard against cranks – see above. The watchlist feature allows logged-in users to monitor a set of pages, and thus retrospectively review any changes. We also use a pending changes review system for high-risk articles, so we do have an approval process to protect certain articles. Moreover, it is quite obvious that Wikipedia has achieved what success it has so far precisely by being as open as it has been. So, again, we don't want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

That said, perhaps someone who has the above suggestion will be pleased by the approval system mentioned above and which can be found discussed at meta:Article validation, and Wikipedia:Flagged revisions. Such a system would identify a body of experts who would put their official stamp of approval on some articles. Those articles could still be just as easily revised as they were before, but there would also be a version presented as the "approved" version. This way we can "freeze" high-quality content without freezing the process.

Until then, people dissatisfied without a form of peer review can try Wikipedia:Peer review.



"One great source – if you can trust it."

Traditional encyclopedias are based on the reputation of certain authors. These authors, though small in number, are highly interested and ostensibly qualified to find good sources for their information, and are therefore expected to produce good quality articles – however, they are not immune to human error. Wikipedia articles, on the other hand, are compiled largely by the Internet public, with varying levels of interest and expertise, but leveraged by great economies of scale. Knowledgeable readers who spot errors and shortcomings can fix them right away, thus Wikipedia can leverage a principle similar to that known as Linus's law in software development ("given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow").

A simple editable webpage on the Internet would indeed be subjected to recklessness. The difference provided in Wikipedia is the infrastructure that helps direct those raw public contributions to the level of standard required.

Criticism of the reliability of Wikipedia tends to highlight isolated examples, and among 6,854,640 articles such examples are likely to exist just from the size of this number alone. On the other hand, the few comparative studies which have been done so far have found the average factual accuracy of Wikipedia to be similar or sometimes even higher than that of traditional encyclopedias.

There are varying levels of quality and trustworthiness for each article that needs to be discerned carefully. Featured articles in Wikipedia are the ones most likely to be a collection of trustworthy articles and the number will grow in time. There are also efforts to create a version 1.0 of Wikipedia and to add a software feature which will allow specific versions of an article to be flagged as trustworthy.

Wikipedia may also delegate trust to other sources by referencing.

Due to occasional vandalism, incompetency and lack of effort, articles and professional encyclopedias alike should always be taken with a grain of salt. When one researches on a topic, he or she would reference many sources rather than rely only on one as good practice.

Note that the leading competing online encyclopedias have disclaimers and provide no warranty as to their accuracy – Britannica and Bartleby (note: Encarta is now defunct) (see Wikipedia:Non-Wikipedia disclaimers, which also includes examples from reputed news organisations). Sometimes the staff of those encyclopedias seem to forget about the disclaimers.

Wikipedia is different because it is very dynamic and so is always under continual improvement. A notable criticism made one day causes the article to be corrected to better quality as a reply very soon after. Trustworthiness and quality of Wikipedia articles would appear to be a function of time.

Quality of other sources


"Wikipedia cannot be trusted, unlike other more scholarly sources."

The following links and stories illustrate why a "trust, but verify" approach is often necessary with any source. Misinformation is commonplace, and has been in existence long before the Internet publishing. From quiz show scandals to other hoaxes (e.g., The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Piltdown Man, and The Hitler Diaries – see Category:Communication of falsehoods for more), information literacy skills have always been needed to evaluate information sources.



Quantity and quality


"Many of your replies seem to assume quality will improve as the website grows, but quantity doesn't always beget quality. Perhaps it will get worse as it gets bigger?"

There are two reasons to think increasing numbers of articles and participants will lead to higher quality.

First, the more eyes that see our articles, the more transparent the errors will be (over the long haul). While we might have one or two philosophers on board during one month, a year later we might have ten or twenty – and then mistakes in their work will be caught much more quickly.

Second, statistically, the more people who are participating, the greater the sheer numbers of experts; that seems to be our experience so far. Moreover, as a matter of fact, people usually tend not to touch articles they know nothing about, particularly when the article is well-developed or when they know some resident expert will pounce on their mistakes. (There are exceptions, of course.) So, the greater the number of participating experts, the higher the overall quality of the content produced under their general guidance. It is not mere hype to say Wikipedia caters to the highest common denominator – it's actually an observation we've made!

Rate of growth

English-language Wikipedia Article Count – Jan 2001 – Jul 2006

"You may have grown fast in the past, but it's surely wrong to suppose the growth rate in the past is a good indication of what will happen in the future."

We agree it's very risky to make any specific predictions about growth rates. Analysis of the growth indicates rapid new-article creation has slowed since 2006, as older topics have been covered, but is expected to slow further for another 10 years. The 2008 rate, averaging 1437 new articles per day,[1] could become offset by article deletions/merges in future years. However, new articles will be created for future inventions, events, films, products, etc. plus people who become notable. Search engines have been sending us lots of traffic (millions of visitors a day from Google alone; it used to be just in the thousands). The more traffic search engines send us, the more people become involved and create content and the more people link to our content, which in turn generates more traffic. Many content-rich Wikipedia pages are now listed on the first page or two of Google results.

Along with adding new articles, many older articles are also merged or deleted because they no longer pass the tests for quality. Because the deletion reviews require time to process, the number of deletions later offsets some new additions. Also, many high-quality articles (noted at WP:Featured articles) have been downgraded, due to higher standards or numerous problems introduced in later edits. So, growth is not a simple increase, but rather also offset by the ongoing reductions.

It is possible, even likely, Wikipedia will eventually become a starting place for researchers in its own right, whether to look up quick facts or subject overviews, or to examine the high-quality sources in our references lists. When search engines first hit the Internet, they had to gain in popularity and were simply linked from other pages, but, after achieving critical mass, they were then viewed as an authority in their own right and were made the first place someone looked, not in addition to a particular viewer's current favorite choice.

There is some attrition (some old contributors don't write so much anymore), but this is offset by an overall increase in the active population. There are many more active Wikipedians now than there were years ago.[needs update]

Another part of the argument is that the overall quality of Wikipedia has been increasing, and this in turn increases the number of people likely to take notice of the project, link to it, use its contents (properly sourcing Wikipedia), etc.

The number of potential encyclopedia topics is not infinite, but it is very large, much larger than the 6,854,640 articles we already have. Even if we reach a point at which we cannot grow significantly in breadth, we will still be able to grow significantly in depth.

Handling increased attacks


"You say Wikipedia is growing rapidly. Suppose it gets really big. Then you'll start to attract the attention of more malicious elements. All the noise will eventually be larger than any group of editors can handle."

Wikipedia is the largest wiki there is, and it's an open question as to whether it will scale up if it becomes even larger. Indeed, many folks believe that online communities may not scale, whether wiki-based or not.

Many of us believe Wikipedia will scale almost indefinitely. The more people there are to abuse it, the more people there are to ward off the abuse. As traffic increases, so does the number of people who work on and care about the project. We've been Slashdotted before, or had articles featured on TV, and had huge bursts of traffic, and while there were a few "malicious elements", they soon find out it's just not worth their while. After all, what is the satisfaction from defacing an article submitted to a non-profit organization anyone can contribute to? And then someone undoes it after five minutes so no one ever sees your brilliant joke! Not much satisfaction there. Bear in mind people have been telling us Wikipedia won't scale, since back in 2001, and so far it has.

On the other hand, some of us agree with you, and think Wikipedia won't scale indefinitely. At some point in the future, we may look back and see that while Wikipedia is a good encyclopedia, it was even better a month ago. Well, at that point we can start to take the project forward using a different approach, perhaps involving a more rigorous peer review system, or we can hand on the baton to someone else. But at the moment, Wikipedia is scaling nicely.



"Wikipedia's current loading speed already ranges from extremely slow to glacial. As it grows, will it keep getting worse?"

Unfortunately, Wikipedia is in a unique position. Unlike other sites experiencing similarly high load, Wikipedia has only one source of income: donations. Although it has received more than twenty million U.S. dollars in donations and has an adept technical team, its traffic continues to expand, making the race to keep up difficult.

However, as the value and promise of Wikipedia continues to grow, we believe even more individuals, corporations, and even governments around the world will see it is in their interest to support its continued availability and growth. Already hundreds of companies are mirroring its content online, effectively load-balancing the readership. Yahoo! has contributed a number of servers in Asia with no strings attached. The more technical problems we experience, the more concerned supporters take action to alleviate them.

Moreover, the open-source technology underlying Wikipedia, MediaWiki software based on the MySQL database management system, is being continuously improved. As time goes on, we will be able to serve more and more requests using the same amount of hardware.

If a time came where even donations could not support Wikipedia, there are other lucrative methods of support available, such as unobtrusive targeted advertising. Our hope is that this will never become necessary – but we feel confident we will never be forced to turn our readers away or shut down the project.

Miscellaneous concerns




"Some excellent contributors have left Wikipedia altogether: see Missing Wikipedians."

It's natural for all volunteer projects to have some turnover of staff. People may find better things to do with their time, or may no longer enjoy Wikipedia as much as they used to. Equally, Wikipedia has changed over time: in the early days we were focused on creating new and broad articles, like mathematics, where now we're more interested in refinement of existing articles, or creating articles on more esoteric subjects. In short, it's not the end of the world when people leave Wikipedia, because there are so many other contributors. On the other hand, where there are systematic problems causing many people to leave, that's something we have to address.

Page protection


"Some articles end up being protected for very long periods of time, in direct conflict with the stated goal of Wikipedia."

On the page Wikipedia:Administrators, it was once said in particular that "The main page used to receive a lot of vandalism; protecting it is an unfortunate compromise to keep our welcome mat free of random profanity." Today, many pages are protected to varying levels, from no edits by anonymous (non-logged-in) editors, all the way up to editable only by administrators. Most of these page protections are temporary, to address flare-ups of vandalism or edit warring.

Wikipedia is not "pure" open, but it is close to it. We try to make sure the only limitations made on editing are:

  • Clearly and immediately justified
  • Mostly effective
  • The weakest possible such limitations that are this effective

Protecting pages is actively discouraged (see Wikipedia:Protection policy and m:Protected pages considered harmful) and limited to a very select group of trusted users, only about a thousand out of many thousands. In this way we make the enforcement of the protection policy feasible. While there are cases where pages are protected without cause, any admin who is alerted to this can undo it, the wiki in effect again at a smaller scale. Also, users may leave comments on the talk sections of protected pages. This allows a user to make comments about the page or ask an administrator to make changes or make a case to unprotect the page.

Some protection levels allow non-admins with a good track record to also make requested edits on behalf of users who cannot.



"I am afraid you have some similarity with the communists. You should promote the values of capitalism and the free market; such as competition, individual property and intellectual property."

(Multiple points of view are presented in response.)
  • POV 1: Wikipedia does not endorse any value system

    The idea of promoting any particular set of values is anathema to the ideal of creating a neutral encyclopedia, and is firmly rejected by the project. The purpose of this encyclopedia is to disseminate knowledge, not to push an agenda.

  • POV 2: Wikipedia is like communism, and that's a good thing

    Wikipedia has a neutral content policy, but that does not mean the methods it uses (such as the GFDL) aren't characteristic of a particular value system.

    Communism is associated with communal ownership of property. Capitalism creates private intellectual property with the intent of rewarding authors for creating, improving, and distributing content. It accomplishes this by restricting access to content, such that only paying customers may read it. As a result, fewer people have access to information. Therefore, fewer people get a chance to use that information to come up with new ideas. So the end result of a capitalist approach to intellectual property is that fewer ideas get created, and people have restricted access to existing ideas.{cn}

    The communist approach of communal ownership of information allows ideas to be distributed far and wide, stimulating intellectual growth and the creation of new ideas. To paraphrase a famous communist motto, Wikipedia's slogan could be "from each, according to their knowledge; to each, according to their curiosity".

    Besides, this is actually the way things have been done traditionally and up until fairly recent times. The "capitalist" notion of intellectual property is a modern invention.

  • POV 3: Wikipedia fuels the free market

    Wikipedia helps fuel the free market economy. Lowering the cost of gathering information means better educated workers, scientists, engineers, and businesspeople. And that means innovation goes faster and reaches farther. Speedy access to basic information may help speed technology transfer and research and development.

    Wikipedia does this without relying on government funding, unlike most basic research enterprises.

  • POV 4: Wikipedia engages in competition

    Regardless of the internal organization of Wikipedia, it engages in external competition all the time. It is in the same line of business as rivals like Encyclopedia Britannica, Encarta, and the Columbia Encyclopedia, and other encyclopedia online projects like Citizendium and Conservapedia. It competes for similar "customers" (readers, paying or not), and is subject to the same competitive forces that determine the viability of this line of business, and of all competitors within it. That Wikipedia has served more customers than all its competitors combined is some indication it does compete, and does it well.

    Merely making content publicly available at no cost to the public does not forsake profit. Terrestrial television and search engines like Google, are examples where gratis content is served, with money made through advertising. Some of Wikipedia's mirrors do this. Loss leaders can also boost sales of complementary products. For example, Red Hat complements its services with a free and gratis operating system. Microsoft complements its operating system with a gratis web browser.

    In addition, a mechanism of competition between individual contributions to articles works to maintain and usually, over time, raise, quality standards. Each individual edit "competes" with all of the other potential edits or reversions in the minds of all of the readers of that article, including the material it replaces; the winner is the best version (as judged according to the views of all contributors, duly channeled by deference to scholarship and argument on the talk pages)... until a better one comes along.

    So for those who believe competition is generally a good thing because it raises quality standards, Wikipedia is an excellent case example.

  • POV 5: Wikipedia is laissez-faire[2]

    The relative absence of central control is the diametric opposite of a centralised communist state.

  • POV 6: Wikipedia engages in altruistic cooperation

    Contrary to POV 5, the reason for Wikipedia's ever-improving quality is cooperation, not competition. Articles on Wikipedia are written by collaborations of contributors, and the editing process does not involve users competing to censor each other's material and promote their own. True, there is plenty of friction and disagreement, but the practice of pushing your own views on an article while reverting other people's is considered abusive and detrimental to Wikipedia. The "winner", the best version, is the result of collective effort by all users working on a certain article; it is likely a good article contains bits and pieces of text written by dozens or even hundreds of people.

    Furthermore, Wikipedians get no material reward for their work.

  • POV 7: Wikipedia is a charity

    Wikipedia is more than just an economic entity; it is also a charitable enterprise.

    Traditional encyclopedias published by for-profit entities create a reasonably high barrier to access for people in developing countries, or even for poor developed-worlders for whom trotting down to the local library is either infeasible or inconvenient. Putting freely available encyclopedic content on the web is a form of economic assistance. There's also a social benefit to having better informed leaders, citizens, and voters.

    Wikipedia welcomes private donations (of both money and content), whether they are given because people find the service useful for themselves, or simply out of compassion.

    Wikipedia does not make money through advertising, and the Wikimedia Foundation has maintained a non-profit status, because doing otherwise would discourage some donors and thus interfere with the charitable mission.

  • POV 8: Wikipedia is like anarchism

    Wikipedia has very little hierarchy, and it is fundamentally opposed to any and all authoritarian principles. It reserves top-down powers to the barest necessary to maintain order and keep the project focused on a particular task. All activity on Wikipedia is voluntary and collaborative in nature. People have complete freedom to contribute or not contribute; if they choose to contribute, it is entirely up to them what kind of articles they wish to edit. Outside projects, including both those sponsored by the Foundation, forks, and independent but similar projects (such as wikitravel.org), are forming to support those who wish to work toward even broader goals. Everyone is allowed to criticize or comment on any portion of the project, and its content is determined in an entirely grass-roots fashion. Thus, if Wikipedia is inspired by communism at all, it is inspired by a form of anarchist communism.

  • POV 9: You can't compare Wikipedia with an economic system

    Communism and capitalism (among others) are full-fledged economic systems. They provide a framework within which people earn a living. But no one earns a living on Wikipedia. People live their entire lives in economic systems, but no one lives their entire life on Wikipedia (at least we hope not). Wikipedia is a hobby; something people do in their spare time. You can't compare it with a full economy, because it isn't one.

  • POV 10: Volunteerism is implicit in capitalism, and all large projects require collaboration

    Even the most die-hard libertarians are adamant that the public good is and must be served by the charitable actions of those who can afford to devote some time, energy, and other resources toward them, or society doesn't function well. Philanthropy exists for a reason, and is a feature of Western, capitalist-leaning democracies far more so than communist regimes or deeply socialist states. No one orders a successful businessperson to form a local sports league for community children and coach in it, and such a person usually doesn't demand a paycheck for doing so. Charitable altruism is built into modern capitalization from the local level on up. The vast majority of money for most non-profit enterprises comes from grants from corporations, entrepreneurs, and their charitable foundations, not from pocket-change donations of average people. The public Internet itself, including the protocols and most of the software that runs it, was developed and deployed largely through volunteered labor and donated work, not jealously guarded intellectual property, nor (except in the earliest years) governmental fiat.

    Within any business enterprise, from a local restaurant to an international mega-corporation, collaborative team-work is required. No one's job title is "collaborator"; everyone works together toward team and enterprise goals or soon finds themselves out of work.

    Wikipedia is no different. It's built by a group effort toward agreed-upon goals by people who have the luxury of some time and attention to donate toward the project, and who do so because they recognize its potential as a good for society. Imagine, instead, a Wikipedia – or an Internet for that matter – entirely created and controlled by a government (yours or anyone else's).

  • POV 11: Who cares, as long as it works?

    Arguing over whether Wikipedia, or certain aspects of it, are more "communist" or more "capitalist" is a waste of time. The important thing is not what ideology inspires it, but whether or not it works.

    The following economic questions are more useful to ask:

    • What incentives exist for the creation of content?
    • Is the rate at which the system produces content that fills the needs of consumers and society competitive with the alternatives?
    • Is the Wikipedia system more efficient than the alternatives?

    Some partial answers are presented as food for thought. Incentives for contribution include:

    • Entertainment value
    • Educational value of researching and presenting information to others
    • Emotional satisfaction at producing something others find useful
    • Charitable altruism
    • Contributions are reviewed, corrected, and expanded by others. The improved content may be of more value to the originator than just their own contributions. (Especially in situations where contributors have uses in mind other than seeking economic reward for publishing a traditionally copyrighted finished version.)
    • The possibility to earn money by publishing print versions of Wikipedia content. The higher the quality of that content, the greater the resulting revenue.

    Aspects of Wikipedia which increase efficiency:

    • Low transaction costs. The "ownership barrier" – the need to negotiate copyright licensing arrangements for each contributor – is eliminated.
    • Contributors may join and leave the project without negotiating an employment contract, and without giving up the ability to re-use their contributions for other projects.
    • Contributors build on each other's work. Partially completed work is stored and available for public use and improvement. This is in contrast to say, a partially completed machine, which cannot be stored publicly or handed off in such a manner (especially because possession is exclusive). It is also in contrast to a partially finished book under traditional copyright, which will normally not be published, and would certainly not be available for others to finish (so the next effort would have to start from scratch). This increases internal project efficiency, but it also increases general social efficiency by preventing such duplication of effort. (This is not dissimilar from industry consortia that cross-license intellectual property such as patents).
    • Setting up a free entertainment and education service that produces encyclopedic content as a byproduct.

    We are not aware of any research directly comparing the time-to-market of Wikipedia versus a traditional encyclopedia. Any such comparison would be complex, given considerations of coverage, depth and quality. What we do know is that Wikipedia has already become one of the most popular reference sites on the planet, with over 20 million page views a day. We have millions of articles, gigabytes of raw text and tens of thousands of contributors. (For more and up-to-date numbers, see Wikipedia:Statistics.) It has experienced literally exponential growth.



"Why is there a need for an encyclopedia at all? Why not just go to your favorite search engine and search for whatever topic on which you're looking for information? You're more likely to find it, and it'll be more interesting and more current."

Here's a glib answer: Isn't it interesting that, in fact, over 60,000 people per day arrive at Wikipedia via Google? [4] [5]

Here's another glib answer: For that matter, you might just as well say: "Why is there a need for a paper encyclopedia at all? Why not just go to your favorite library and search for whatever topic on which you're looking for information?"

Here's a longer answer. The Internet, armed with good search engines, functions not unlike a giant, and often useful, encyclopedia. But does it follow that there is no need for a free information, community-built encyclopedia? Not necessarily.

Indeed, the fact that search engines are merely often useful is a point worth noting. There is a lot of dross on the web; it's easy to get side-tracked by rubbish. Also many of the points above directed at the Wikipedia do apply to the Web at large. A filtering mechanism of some kind is required.

That mechanism can take many forms: personal skepticism, peer opinion, popular opinion or a centralised authority, for instance. Wikipedia provides another: that of mass peer review. It is a handy place to store stuff you find out. But if you can't substantiate what you say, others will remove it. An encyclopedia is not the place for things that are not certainly true.

Also, even if Wikipedia only displayed existing knowledge, it has four important functions (as do all encyclopedias) that add value:

  • Consolidation: Collecting of information from many sources in one place
  • Summarization: Summarizes existing knowledge in a condensed form for easier reading
  • Organization: A standardized format for all articles and facilities for locating relevant knowledge quickly
  • Cross-referencing: Internal links to related ideas, and external links to references and other helpful primary and secondary sources

Another important value Wikipedia adds is that it is free. This means anyone will be able to use the content for any purpose, particularly for educational purposes. There are many great prospects in the use of a really huge, free encyclopedia for educational purposes. While the wiki system isn't necessary to produce such a body of data, convincing people to give away large amounts of their writing for free is difficult without the low bar the wiki system creates.

Additionally, it's important to note that both personal and organizational pages on the Web become out of date (so-called 'bit rot'). Errors of fact can remain in place for years with the only feedback mechanism being increasingly rare (due to spam) "mailto:" tags. With Wikipedia, all readers can be editors. Interested parties can keep articles up-to-date and current long after the original author has lost interest or has less time.

Finally, it is possible that in the fullness of time Wikipedia will contain more relevant, reliable information on any given topic than can be easily found via a search engine. That's certainly our plan for it.

And remember, the Internet certainly does not contain all human knowledge. Visit any decent library and consult some of the specialized reference books and you will find information which is not on any website (or at least not freely available), and is unlikely ever to find its way onto the web (except onto Wikipedia, of course). For example: a search engine may find hundreds of pictures of a particular butterfly but no detail regarding its taxonomic status, breeding biology, range or even its size (all of which are details you would expect of a decent encyclopedia).

Markup and display


"Wikipedia software is inadequate to the task of collaboratively writing an encyclopedia. It is hard to collaboratively edit images, there is no WYSIWYG editing, and anything complex requires reams of HTML."

There are some ways in which Wikipedia is less than ideal in these respects. We are working to improve some of these issues, though: for example, the largest concerns have been in the mathematical section of the site. Wikipedia began supporting TeX Markup in January 2003 and this is no longer a problem. Similarly, image uploads have also been supported.

In addition, a simplified image syntax has been introduced (see meta:image pages). There is also simplifying table markup – see Help:Table. The Wikipedia software is open source, so if you'd like to work on other extensions, then join the MediaWiki-L mailing list and offer your services.

Furthermore, the ever increasing popularity of Wikipedia has encouraged a number of dedicated developers to create WYSIWYG tools for editing Wikipedia articles. One such tool is the Wikipedia Extension available for the Firefox browser. The development of this and similar projects are excellent examples of the serious interest shown by the members of the community to make Wikipedia more user friendly.

And as of June 2014 a WYSIWYG editor for Wikipedia called Visual Editor is in beta test, and can be enabled by logged-in users. It's not finished yet, but it is good enough to use for many day to day tasks. As of 2020 or earlier it is the default editor with wikitext as a parallel option.

In the meantime, while we can agree that the current software is not fully polished, it is certainly not inadequate; everything we do now can be carried over as we slowly improve the software.

Incorrect titles


"Many article titles are incorrectly capitalized. For example, the articles about eBay and pH are found at EBay and PH respectively, and there seems to be no progress in fixing this technical limitation."

In 2007, MediaWiki introduced a special function[3] to allow proper capitalization of titles. The majority of articles have already been moved to their properly titled pages. Pages can now be linked with properly capitalized names, such as eBay, pH, and iPod. Now only the URL, and a few other pages like search results and user contributions, show the initial capital letter. Almost all such articles already included a clear notice demonstrating the correct capitalization of the subject, so the reader is not misled. Our search and linking functionality is not hindered by this limitation; if you type the correct capitalization into the search box or into a link in an article, you will be taken to the correct article. Also, this is not a technical limitation, but a feature of the English Wikipedia. Because the vast majority of titles in English should start with a capital letter there is not much need to turn off this feature. We force all titles to start with a capital letter because it forces authors to capitalize correctly in the vast majority of cases.

Excessive use of jargon


"Many entries in highly specialized fields use jargon that will not be familiar to anyone not already knowledgeable in those fields. How can this problem be alleviated?"

An earlier, imperfect solution was to offer entries on all specialized terms in Wikipedia's sister project, the Wiktionary. The current, improved solution is to offer a glossary article (e.g. Glossary of partner dance terms), or link the jargon to a page, or heading of section in a page (e.g. Google Print links to List of Google services#Book Search). Depending on the importance of the term, it might eventually get a Wikipedia article of its own. Uses of the term in other articles can then be linked to the term's own article, and in that article it is generally explained with more commonly known terms. However, Wikipedia is not a dictionary and will not have simplistic "dictionary definition" articles on random words; when we have articles on terminology, they are written from an encyclopedic perspective; see, for example, mens rea and decussation.

"What about Wikipedia hosting copyrighted images, texts, or works that would be against the law of many countries? The statement of such: 'Content must not violate any copyright and must be verifiable', won't necessarily be followed by an anonymous and easily accessed community."

At present, the same sorts of self-policing efforts that ensure other quality problems from getting out of hand seem to be functioning to prevent such abuse. As with many other issues regarding anonymity and the Internet the full legal dangers and solutions are still uncertain, however this is not a problem specific to the wiki project. Copyright problems are resolved quickly when they appear. Copyright owners see: Wikipedia:Contact us/Article problem/Copyright

The live web version of Wikipedia is also protected from being the target of crippling legal action by the same law that protects YouTube: in the United States, OCILLA forces copyright holders to inform Wikipedia and give them an opportunity to remove the offending material, and such requests are always honored.

Wikipedia is unusually responsive to copyright violation in one respect: copyright issues can be reported by any editor, not just the copyright holder. (See Wikipedia:Text copyright violations 101.)


  1. ^ Ending 2008, total article count was 2,679,000 as an annual increase of 526,000 / 366 ~ 1437.16 new articles per day. See Wikipedia:Statistics.
  2. ^ David Shariatmadari. "The sultan and the glamour model". Open Democracy News Analysis.
  3. ^ The special function {{DISPLAYTITLE:...}} can be used to set a title independent of the article name used for storage and searching (and shown in the page URL). It is documented at Help:Magic words#Behavior switches.

See also