Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is so great

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The English edition of Wikipedia has grown to 6,827,730 articles, equivalent to more than 2500 print volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Including all language editions, Wikipedia has more than 426 million articles,[1] equivalent to more than 20,517 print volumes.

As you read and idly edit Wikipedia, at some point, you may ask yourself: "Just why is Wikipedia so great? What accounts for its enormous growth and success?" To answer this question, some great people have written some explanations and arguments on this page. Everybody should use Wikipedia, either as a source or, if you find deficiencies, as a medium you can make contributions. For comparison, see also Wikipedia: Why Wikipedia is not so great, and Wikipedia: Replies to common objections. You can then arrive at a well-informed conclusion thereafter.


  • Wikipedia can be corrected within seconds, rather than within months as with a paper encyclopedia. When someone sees something wrong in an article, they can simply fix it themselves. If they cannot correct it, they can "tag" the problem to attract the attention of other editors and warn readers to be on their guard as to what they are reading. Compare that to the slow, tedious process required to report and fix a problem in a paper encyclopedia.
  • On Wikipedia, there are no required topics and no one is setting assignments. That means anyone can find part of the encyclopedia they're interested in and add to it immediately (if they can do better than what's already there). However, some editors steer well away from editing areas in which they are experts to avoid any of their biases gained from contaminating the editing process and will edit only subjects they are not connected to. This increases motivation and keeps things fun.
  • Wikipedia is open content, released under a free license. Knowing this encourages people to contribute; they know it's a public project everyone can use.
  • Where else can you get lovely articles on a such-and-such town or so-and-so bizarre hobby written by actual residents/practitioners? (Of course, some view this as a curse.) Many articles on Wikipedia will likely never have an entry in a paper encyclopedia.
  • The use of talk pages. If an article doesn't cover something, you can ask about it.
  • Requesting articles. If any article you try to find isn't here, you can request it.
  • Most editors on Wikipedia are amateurs. However, many contributors on specific matters are professionals or have firsthand knowledge of the subjects they write about. These contributions allow many scholars to gather information to aid them in research matters, and even just for everyday general knowledge, and if you see someone made a mistake you can fix it!

Comprehensiveness and depth[edit]

  • Wikipedia is by far the world's largest encyclopedia; it is the largest, most comprehensive, and most accessible compilation of knowledge to exist in the history of the human race. With the English Wikipedia now having more than six million articles, it is already well over twenty times the size of what was previously the world's largest encyclopedia (the largest edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which contains 65,000 articles). With each new article, information is becoming more accessible than it ever has before.
  • Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy makes it an excellent place to gain a quick understanding of controversial topics. Want a good overview of the Arab–Israeli conflict but have only ten minutes to spare? Wondering what all the fuss is about in Kashmir, or what the pro/con arguments are about stem cell research? Wikipedia is a great place to start.
  • Wikipedia is not paper, and that is a good thing because articles are not strictly limited in size as they are with paper encyclopedias.
  • Articles steadily become more polished as they develop, particularly if one person is working on an article with reasonable regularity (inclining others to help the original author). There are some articles we can all point to that started life mediocre at best and are now at least somewhat better than mediocre. If the project lasts many years, thus attracting many more people (as it is reasonable to assume), these very articles could really shine.
  • Wikipedia attracts highly intelligent, articulate people (except for repeat vandals) with some time on their hands. Moreover, some experts contribute to the articles. Over time, the huge amount of solid work done by hobbyists and experts alike will inevitably build upon itself, therefore greatly improving Wikipedia's body of information. As a result, Wikipedia is an intellectual community, confident that the quality of Wikipedia articles will be high.
  • Wikipedia, having contributors from many areas of the world, provides its readers with a "world view" that could not be provided simply by a few contributors from a limited region. This also serves to eliminate cultural bias in articles.
  • To use an extended metaphor, Wikipedia is very fertile soil for knowledge. As encyclopedia articles grow, they can attract gardeners who will weed and edit them, while the discussion between community members provides light to help their growth. With consistent effort and nourishment, Wikipedia articles can become beautiful and informative.
  • The sheer amount of information in one search on Wikipedia compared to other search engines, which often provide little useful knowledge on each of hundreds, if not thousands, of results, can be found more concisely (and perhaps safely) than through traditional means. So it's up to you to choose!


  • Wikipedia, by its very nature, resists destructive edits (known as vandalism). Most previous revisions of an article are saved and stored. Once vandalism is committed, in three or four clicks we can have it reverted. Think about it: to vandalize a page extensively, you would probably need around thirty seconds (unless it involved simply blanking the page). Compare that to the five to ten seconds it takes to revert an article. Add IP blocking, dedicated souls, and an intelligent robot that monitors edits to the encyclopedia, and you have a solid resistance against destructive edits.
  • And vandalism is also "grist for the mill". In reversing vandalism, diligent editors often make other improvements that wouldn't have attracted their attention, were it not for the vandalism.

Success factors[edit]

  • Wikipedia's success mainly depends on its users, the Wikipedians.
  • In theory, everybody can be a Wikipedian, but does the theory hold in practice?
  • The idea is that the Wiki-community of Wikipedians is a special group of people who have special characteristics. To account for these special characteristics, we have provided the following factor model:
    • User factors
      • Openness
      • Computer skills
      • Motivation
      • Neutrality
      • Community-like
      • Trust
    • Knowledge factors
      • Type of knowledge
      • Fast changing rate
      • Peer review
      • Knowledge construction
    • Technology factors
      • Easy usability
      • Fast access
      • Infinite reach, multilingual
      • Flexible structure
      • Very Safe
  • All these factors play together to accomplish the goal of successful knowledge creation and knowledge sharing.
  • A study done by the University of Washington found that eight in ten college students use Wikipedia as an introduction to finding information for their research.[2]

Additional comments[edit]

  • Our likelihood of success always seemed encouragingly high. On January 23, 2003 we reached 100,000 articles, and we have since passed 6,500,000 English articles. If Wikipedia simply continues as it has been, which seems plausible, then all potential articles will be covered, even on new topics emerging from an evolving reality.
  • Wikipedia is free. Many online encyclopedias were not.
  • It's a good feeling to see that one's contribution is potentially read by millions of surfers.
  • Wikipedia takes information from other reliable websites and puts it onto one portal. Each piece of information added to a page has to be individually cited so readers can find the source and get more information.
  • Wikipedia used to have no set in stone rules. Rather, it had the "Five Pillars" which highlighted the main principles and guidelines of Wikipedia and which were the keystone to its early growth.
  • "The Wikipedia Revolution" is an interesting and informative read that looks into how a varied collection of people came together to develop one of the world's most significant and revolutionary sources of knowledge.

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Wikimedia Statistics".
  2. ^ Nagel, David. "8 in 10 Students Turn to Wikipedia for Research". Campus Technology. Retrieved 15 December 2014.


  1. ^ Bruckman, A. S. (2022). Should you believe Wikipedia? : Online communities and the construction of knowledge. Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781108490320
  2. ^ Mattus, M. (2009). Wikipedia – free and reliable? The NORDICOM Review of Nordic Research on Media & Communication, 30(1), 183–199. doi:10.1515/nor-2017-0146
  3. ^ Lih, A. (2009). The Wikipedia revolution : How a bunch of nobodies created the world’s greatest encyclopedia. In Hyperion, ©2009. New York. ISBN: 9781401303716