Marking a milestone in the world of web based services, Wikipedia this year celebrated its 15th anniversary. Fifteen years ago, on 15th January, 2001 Wikipedia came into existence, and now it made its charisma as the internet’s “Free Encyclopedia”. It was founded by two internet innovators, Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. When they started they didn’t had the idea in mind that their online encyclopedia will become this much aspiring and impressive.
Meaning of Wikipedia
Wikipedia name is the combination of the words ‘Wiki’ and ‘Pedia’. ‘Wiki’ means “A shared website” and ‘Pedia’ is the short word taken from encyclopedia.
What is Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is a “Free Encyclopedia – that anyone can edit”. It is a special type of website designed to make collaboration easy, called a Wiki, by allowing the people who use it, to combined edit or make changes to the contents it provides. Wikipedia’s contents are changed or improved frequently every hour by thousands of people and these changes are recorded in article histories and recent changes.
Foundation and Objectives
Two internet visionaries Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, launched Wikipedia on 15th January, 2001 with an aim to introduce itself as a source of information on internet. When it started it provided some useful information and also some information. Wikipedia changed the way of thinking of people about the world by generating curiosity to know and interact with the facts.
History of Wikipedia
Commenced on 15th January, 2001 as an online encyclopedia.
In 1993, the first concept of online encyclopedia was proposed by Rick Gates.
But the first idea of online encyclopedia with the “free to edit” concept was introduced by Richard Stallman in December 2000, which proclaimed that no central organization will control the editing done by users.
“Microsoft Encarta”, “Encyclopedia Britannica”, and “Bomis’s Nupedia” were Wikipedia’s exact predecessors using the same concept.
In 2001, the license for Nupedia was changed to GFDL (GNU Free Documentation License). It is a copy left license for free documentation, designed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project. It gives readers the rights to copy, reorganize, and modify a work and requires all copies and results to be available under the same license.
Wales and Sanger started Wikipedia using the same concept and WIKI technology (founded in 1995 by Ward Cunningham).
Initially, Wikipedia was intended to complement Nupedia, an online encyclopedia project edited solely by experts, by providing additional draft articles and ideas for it.
Wikipedia then quickly overtook Nupedia and become a global project in multiple languages and also started a wide range of other online reference projects.
Important and amazing facts related to Wikipedia
Wikipedia is the largest collection of free, collaborative knowledge in human history.
According to Alexa rank, Wikipedia is 6th most popular website of the world based on traffic.
Alexa rank is calculated using a ‘combination’ of the estimated average daily unique visitors to the site and the estimated number of page views on the site over the past 3 months.
Wikipedia consists around 17.6 million articles, which is continuously increasing.
At present Wikipedia is registered with 285 languages. Articles are available in all languages to allow people to access content in their local language.
The top 5 languages ruling the Wikipedia are English (3,924,043 articles), German (1.394.015 articles), French (1.238.363 articles), Dutch (1.038.017 articles), Italian (910.922 articles).
Wikipedia is a website which is open for everyone to add any content or edit existing content.
It have approximately 1 billion edits for its total articles.
The most edited article on Wikipedia, of all time is about George W. Bush, which has been changed 45,862 times.
Anyone can create a website similar to Wikipedia by using the software that was developed only for Wikipedia.
No ads are distributed on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is funded on donations.
Wikipedia is also having a community of authors, called as ‘Wikipedians’, with around 27 million registered users.
Only 31% of users are women, and 13% of editors are women.
Anybody can edit or add new articles and can also raise questions on wrong addition or update.
Originally, any updates were instantly available but later restriction were added to reduce vandalism.
For Wikipedia, Google is the primary source of traffic as half of the traffic on comes from Google.
It can be can viewed that for most of the results, Wikipedia ranks at top on first page of Google.
There is a direct correlation between bad weather and the number of people editing Wikipedia.
Wikipedia once banned users with IP addresses from Congress as it was revealed that several congressional staffers were making changes to their bosses’ political biographies, including deleting sections that offered criticism.
Languages for which contents are provided
Presently there are 291 languages in which Wikipedia provide contents or articles. These language editions are also called “Language Versions” or “Wikipedias”.
Out of these languages, 20 languages are there which have largest editions, detailed as under:-
The top 12 languages (English, Swedish, Cebuano, German, Dutch, French, Russian, Waray-Waray, Italian, Spanish, Polish, and Vietnamese) have more than 1000000 (1 million) articles, three languages (Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese) have more than 700000 (7 lakhs) articles, 42 language have more than 100000 (1 lakhs) articles and 76 languages have more than 10000 (10 thousand) articles.
According to the present data Wikipedia have 38,519,788 Articles with 2,131,062,861 Edits, 4,032 Admins, 60,102,060 Users (296,940 active), and 2,412,836 Images.
The largest Wikipedia is of English language edition as it consist of 5000000 (5 million) articles. The English Wikipedia includes most modern varieties of English like American English, Indian English, South African English, etc.
As we stated earlier that Wikipedia make available contents and articles in 291 languages but only 280 languages are functioning currently. Every language has given a code, which is predefined by the “IETF language tag policy”.
Academic use of Wikipedia
In present time, Wikipedia is considered as a useful source of information. In education field also, Wikipedia plays a very significant role, as it’s increasingly being used by students as well as professors and teacher to gain information related to their subjects. As they have curiosity in many topics to their related subjects, they find Wikipedia as a source of unlimited knowledge and also use it in clearing their doubts. If we say that everybody is now addicted to Wikipedia, then there is nothing wrong in it. Have a look on the following points to understand the academic importance of Wikipedia:-
As online study is has become a good source of studying, students prefer Wikipedia more if they find any doubt in their studies.
If any query is typed, the results from Wikipedia comes on top, so preferred by students.
In an academic study in US it’s found that more than one third of the students use Wikipedia for their studies.
It can be used to generate ideas and learn new terminology associated with student’s topic.
The information as very good, comprehensive and not excessively technical.
Projects Accompanied by Wikipedia
The projects consorted with Wikipedia are commenced under the “Wikimedia Movement”. The Wikimedia Movement is the combination of people, their activities and values, making a circle around the Wikipedia’s sister projects and various sites. The Wikimedia Movement includes:
A collection of speech, knowledge for everyone, community sharing etc. by individuals.
A collection of activities like conferences, workshops, wikiacademies etc.
A collection of organizations, which includes Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia chapters etc.
The Wikipedia’s associated projects, famous as the Sister Projects come under Wikimedia Foundation. “Wikimedia Foundation” is a tax-exempt non-profit organization with offices in San Francisco, California, USA that supports and operates Wikipedia and the other free knowledge projects with a motive to share the knowledge and information with every person in the world.
It keeps the websites fast, secure, and available so that anyone can access the information, wherever they wants, whether on phone, laptops or nay other device. The “Wikimedia Foundation” supports a number of free knowledge projects (The Sister Projects) made using the Mediawiki software, can be described as follows:-
Wiktionary: – Wiktionary is a project in which multilingual free content dictionary is created in every language. It means each project can use a particular language to define all words in all language. It was started in the year 2002 and at present time it is available in 170 languages with over 37,000,000 entries in all. The best thing about Wiktionary is that it is wide ranging than other dictionaries. It includes thesauri, rhymes, translations, audio pronunciations, etymologies, and quotations, etc. in collaboration to Wikimedia commons, many sounds files are uploaded to Wiktionary to function with pronunciation also.
Wikiquote: – This project got started in the year 2003. It’s a combinations of variety of quotations, proverbs, dialogues, slogans taken from books, sppeches, famous people, films, etc.
Wikibooks: – This project also started in the year 2003 with an aim to provide free e-book guide which includes textbooks, language courses, manuals, and annotated public domain books. It helps the students and teachers to get knowledge and instructions about their fields of studies.
Wikisource: – Started to provide a compilation of free and open content texts, in the year 2003. It stores the classics, laws, and other free works as hypertext and also translate the texts. Wikisource now offers total 3,800,000 source texts.
Wikispecies: – This project was started on 14th September, 2016. It provide a central, more extensive species database for taxonomy covering living and fossil representatives of Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Bacteria, Archaea, Protista and all other forms of life.
Wikinews: – This project was launched in December 2004 to cover all the news of every variety from the world. People from all the world can write news and combinedly share them. Wikinews is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 rather than Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.
Wikiversity: – This project was set up on 15 august 2006 for learning materials and learning communities, as well as research. Wikiversity is not just limited to university level materials, but is open to materials and communities of all learner levels. There are over 30,000 learning resource entries in total 12 languages.
Wikivoyage: – The project started in the year 2006 in December to create the world’s largest free, complete and up-to-date world-wide travel guide. It is written by the travelers who enjoy sharing their view on various travelling places. It has 50,000 articles in seven languages. It is now available in 16 languages.
Wikimedia Commons: – Launched in September 2004 with the motive to provide a central repository for free photographs, diagrams, maps, videos, animations, music, sounds, spoken texts, and other free media. It’s a project which have many contributors who speaks various languages. At present it have 30 million multimedia files.
Wikidata: – This project was launched in October 2012 to create free knowledge base about the world, which can be edited by anyone. It provides data in all the languages. The data available with this project is licensed under the “Creative Commons CC0 License”.
MediaWiki: – A lot of projects are undertaken by this single project. It is used by many Wikimedia projects and also many other projects. Its core functionality can be expanded through extensions, customizations, and mobile applications. It also gives space to new volunteers for development, testing, system administration, documentation, design, and promotion.
Meta-Wiki: – This projects is used for various coordination and organization tasks and used for documenting wiki philosophy to submitting grant proposals.
Wikimedia Incubator: – This project is a place where new Wikimedia projects are decided and their startup planning is done. The new projects are created to a subdomain like “en.wikipedia.org” or “fr.wikipedia.org”. The newly created projects are called as “test wiki” and given an ISO 639 code “Wp” for Wikipedia. It also have separate “incubators”, www.wikisource.org and Beta Wikiversity and can also translated into many languages.
Wikimedia Labs: – It is a project started with a motive to help volunteers get involved in Wikimedia operations and software development. This project make it easier for system administrators and developers to try out improvements to Wikimedia infrastructure, including MediaWiki.
Challenges for Wikipedia
The Largest online encyclopedia “Wikipedia” have a lot of useful things with it as it can provide all the information related to the topics we want to study. But still there are some challenges that Wikipedia is facing, because of which it’s shrinking continuously. We can have a look on the following few points to understand the challenges: -
As Wikipedia is open for everyone. Anybody can edit its contents and articles provided. It makes difficult for the knowledge seekers to get the correct information, as the content changes every time they read the same article.
Wikipedia is dependent on a large group of users and editor for the contents. Finding and attracting a large community of users is becoming difficult.
Presently, approximately all the important topics are covered under Wikipedia and it’s now very difficult to make further improvement in those contents.
The community that’s currently running the site, includes 90% male. They make a humiliating environment that discourages newcomers, who might give contribution in Wikipedia to expand its coverage.
Wikipedia is having a higher public profile and its commitment to letting anyone contribute even anonymously, created an issue that many updates resulted in total despoilment.
Wikipedia constructed a unique and important representation in the history of civilization with the help of its community of users and editors and proved itself a significant, worthy, and useful element in the arena of encyclopedias. But, that community also constructed barriers that prevented the newcomers to present their work, which could have strengthen the content.
It could be said that it was not a good decision or planning to make expectation from a large crowd of users or strangers to represent knowledge and information genuinely. But with all its moderate quality and “not so good” representation of the world’s diversity, Wikipedia could be the best encyclopedia we will get today.
Wikipedia, today has become the greatest boon for online researchers and scholars. Students, housewives, working professionals, everyone search out for the reliable source of information for meeting their information search needs, information that can direct them to achieve the desired end results.
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