Saturday, January 15, 2005

Free for All

Today, January 15, is the fourth anniversary of the launching of Wikipedia, the free online collaborative encylopedia project that has become one of the best web sites on the Internet. When it started, the idea of creating a reference collection whose material was supplied by the public seemed absurd. Anyone at any time can with just one click create or edit an article on any subject. On the surface, the potential for abuse seems that it would wreck any chance of creating an authentic source of information.

I'm happy to report that is not the case. Wikipedia has grown at a tremendous rate, branching out into different languages (over a million articles, roughly 450,000 in the English version) and different projects, such as Wikiquote (an extremely useful free encyclopedia of quotations) and Wiktionary (free dictionary). Its legitimacy has been maintained thanks to the interest of thousands of intelligent and articulate users who self-police themselves. Wikipedia in fact is excellent at providing information on controversials topics, because its strict neutrality policy brings out both sides of an argument. Controversial articles that draw charges of bias are flagged with the appropriate disclaimer. Wikipedia's users work with one another to create the fairest presentation possible.

Furthermore, Wikipedia has a huge advantage over other encyclopedias because it is constantly being updated (several hundred times a day), allowing you to find information on new subjects. Lastly, since each of its contributors is specialized in the topic they write about (users choose what articles they want to edit or write about), Wikipedia offers detailed information on even minutiae or obscure topics.

For more reasons about "Why Wikipedia is so Great", I would encourage you to start using it yourself. Thousands of Internet users already do, and for good reason. Wikipedia is free and open to everyone. Anyone can contribute--thousands already have. Wikipedia has indexed an unbelieavable amount of information, long since surpassing its original goal of producing 100,000 articles. To me, this site represents a realization of the wonderful potential of the Internet to do good, useful work.

Wikipedia is a name I'm sure will soon be household. Happy 4th birthday to the 21st century answer to Encyclopedia Britannica!

1 comment:

Chris said...

It is indeed a valuable resource. And I encourage anyone using the Firefox browser (which as a matter of common sense you should already be doing) to add the wikipedia search engine to your search bar. (select "add engines from the drop down list)

However, I would like to point out that while Wikipedia is great for science/tech stuff, it falls a bit short on the historical/social sciences side in my view. Nevertheless, definitely a great site worth many visits.