(/ˌwɪkɪˈpiːdiə/ ( listen),
/ˌwɪkiˈpiːdiə/ ( listen) WIK-ih-PEE-dee-ə) is a
multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project supported
Wikimedia Foundation and based on a model of openly editable
content. is the largest and most popular general reference
work on the Internet, and is named as one of the most popular
websites. The project is owned by the Wikimedia Foundation, a
non-profit which "operates on whatever monies it receives from its
annual fund drives".
was launched on January 15, 2001, by
Jimmy Wales and Larry
Sanger. Sanger coined its name, a portmanteau of
wiki[notes 4] and encyclopedia. There was only the English-language
version initially, but similar versions in other languages quickly
developed, which differ in content and in editing practices. With
5,608,625 articles,[notes 5] the English is the largest of
the more than 290 encyclopedias. Overall,
comprises more than 40 million articles in 299 different languages
and, as of February 2014[update], it had 18 billion page views and
nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.
As of March 2017, has about 40,000 high-quality articles,
known as Featured Articles and Good Articles, that cover vital
topics. In 2005, Nature published a peer review comparing 42
science articles from
Encyclopædia Britannica and, and
found that's level of accuracy approached that of
Encyclopædia Britannica. Time magazine stated that the remarkably
open-door policy of allowing anyone to edit had made the
biggest and possibly the best encyclopedia in the world and it was
testament to the vision of Jimmy Wales.
has been criticized for allegedly exhibiting systemic bias,
presenting a mixture of "truths, half truths, and some
falsehoods", and, in controversial topics, being subject to
manipulation and spin.
Facebook announced that it would help readers detect fake
news by suitable links to articles.
YouTube in 2018
announced a similar plan. In response, the Washington Post headlined
Wikipedia, the ‘good cop’ of the Internet.
1.2 Launch and early growth
2.2 Review of changes
3 Policies and laws
3.1 Content policies and guidelines
4.2 Dispute resolution
4.2.1 Arbitration Committee
6 Language editions
6.1 English editor decline
7 Critical reception
7.1 Accuracy of content
7.2 Discouragement in education
7.2.1 Medical information
7.3 Quality of writing
7.4 Coverage of topics and systemic bias
7.4.1 Coverage of topics and selection bias
7.4.2 Systemic bias
7.4.3 Identifying the filter-bubble problem
7.5 Explicit content
Wikimedia Foundation and
Wikimedia movement affiliates
8.2 Software operations and support
8.3 Automated editing
8.4 Wikiprojects, and assessments of articles' importance and quality
8.5 Hardware operations and support
8.6 Internal research and operational development
8.7 Internal news publications
9 Access to content
9.1 Content licensing
9.2 Methods of access
9.2.1 Mobile access
10 Cultural impact
10.1 Trusted source to combat fake news
10.3 Cultural significance
10.4 Sister projects – Wikimedia
10.6 Scientific use
11 Related projects
12 See also
14 Further reading
14.1 Academic studies
14.3 Book reviews and other article
14.3.1 Learning resources
14.3.2 Other media coverage
15 External links
Main article: History of
Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger
originally developed from another encyclopedia project
Other collaborative online encyclopedias were attempted before
Wikipedia, but none were as successful.
began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online
English-language encyclopedia project whose articles were written by
experts and reviewed under a formal process.
Nupedia was founded
on March 9, 2000, under the ownership of Bomis, a web portal company.
Its main figures were Jimmy Wales, the CEO of Bomis, and Larry Sanger,
Nupedia and later.
Nupedia was licensed
initially under its own
Open Content License, switching to the
GNU Free Documentation License
GNU Free Documentation License before's founding at the
urging of Richard Stallman. Sanger and Wales founded
Wikipedia. While Wales is credited with defining the goal of
making a publicly editable encyclopedia, Sanger is credited
with the strategy of using a wiki to reach that goal. On January
10, 2001, Sanger proposed on the
Nupedia mailing list to create a wiki
as a "feeder" project for Nupedia.
The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1, Ideas with Paul Kennedy, CBC,
January 15, 2014
Launch and early growth
was launched on January 15, 2001, as a single
English-language edition at www.wikipedia.com, and announced by
Sanger on the
Nupedia mailing list.'s policy of "neutral
point-of-view" was codified in its first months. Otherwise, there
were relatively few rules initially and operated
independently of Nupedia. Originally,
Bomis intended to make
a business for profit.
gained early contributors from Nupedia,
and web search engine indexing. Language editions were also created,
with a total of 161 by the end of 2004.
coexisted until the former's servers were taken down permanently in
2003, and its text was incorporated into. The English
passed the mark of two million articles on September 9,
2007, making it the largest encyclopedia ever assembled, surpassing
even the 1408 Yongle Encyclopedia, which had held the record for
almost 600 years.
Citing fears of commercial advertising and lack of control in
Wikipedia, users of the Spanish forked from to
create the Enciclopedia Libre in February 2002. These moves
encouraged Wales to announce that would not display
advertisements, and to change's domain from.com to
Though the English reached three million articles in August
2009, the growth of the edition, in terms of the numbers of articles
and of contributors, appears to have peaked around early 2007.
Around 1,800 articles were added daily to the encyclopedia in 2006; by
2013 that average was roughly 800. A team at the Palo Alto
Research Center attributed this slowing of growth to the project's
increasing exclusivity and resistance to change. Others suggest
that the growth is flattening naturally because articles that could be
called "low-hanging fruit"—topics that clearly merit an
article—have already been created and built up
In November 2009, a researcher at the
Rey Juan Carlos University
Rey Juan Carlos University in
Madrid (Spain) found that the English had lost 49,000
editors during the first three months of 2009; in comparison, the
project lost only 4,900 editors during the same period in
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal cited the array of rules applied
to editing and disputes related to such content among the reasons for
this trend. Wales disputed these claims in 2009, denying the
decline and questioning the methodology of the study. Two years
later, in 2011, Wales acknowledged the presence of a slight decline,
noting a decrease from "a little more than 36,000 writers" in June
2010 to 35,800 in June 2011. In the same interview, Wales also claimed
the number of editors was "stable and sustainable". A 2013 article
titled "The Decline of" in MIT's Technology Review
questioned this claim. The article revealed that since 2007,
had lost a third of the volunteer editors who update and correct the
online encyclopedia and those still there have focused increasingly on
minutiae. In July 2012,
The Atlantic reported that the number of
administrators is also in decline. In the November 25, 2013, issue
of New York magazine, Katherine Ward stated "Wikipedia, the
sixth-most-used website, is facing an internal crisis".
blackout protest against SOPA on January 18, 2012
A promotional video of the
Wikimedia Foundation that encourages
viewers to edit, mostly reviewing 2014 via content
In January 2007, entered for the first time the top-ten list
of the most popular websites in the U.S., according to comScore
Networks. With 42.9 million unique visitors, was ranked
number 9, surpassing
The New York Times
The New York Times (#10) and Apple (#11). This
marked a significant increase over January 2006, when the rank was
number 33, with receiving around 18.3 million unique
visitors. As of March 2015[update], has rank
5 among websites in terms of popularity according to Alexa
Internet. In 2014, it received 8 billion pageviews every month. On
February 9, 2014,
The New York Times
The New York Times reported that has 18
billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors a month,
"according to the ratings firm comScore."
On January 18, 2012, the English participated in a series of
coordinated protests against two proposed laws in the United States
Stop Online Piracy Act
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act
(PIPA)—by blacking out its pages for 24 hours. More than 162
million people viewed the blackout explanation page that temporarily
Loveland and Reagle argue that, in process, follows a long
tradition of historical encyclopedias that accumulated improvements
piecemeal through "stigmergic accumulation".
On January 20, 2014, Subodh Varma reporting for The Economic Times
indicated that not only had's growth flattened but that it
has "lost nearly 10 per cent of its page-views last year. That's a
decline of about 2 billion between December 2012 and December 2013.
Its most popular versions are leading the slide: page-views of the
English declined by 12 per cent, those of German version
slid by 17 per cent and the Japanese version lost 9 per cent."
Varma added that, "While's managers think that this could be
due to errors in counting, other experts feel that Google's Knowledge
Graphs project launched last year may be gobbling up
users." When contacted on this matter, Clay Shirky, associate
professor at New York University and fellow at Harvard's Berkman
Internet and Security indicated that he suspected much of
the page view decline was due to Knowledge Graphs, stating, "If you
can get your question answered from the search page, you don't need to
click [any further]."
By the end of December 2016, was ranked fifth in the most
popular websites globally.
Number of English articles
editors with >100 edits per month
Differences between versions of an article are highlighted as shown
Unlike traditional encyclopedias, follows the
procrastination principle[notes 6] regarding the security of its
content. It started almost entirely open—anyone could create
articles, and any article could be edited by any reader,
even those who did not have a account. Modifications to all
articles would be published immediately. As a result, any article
could contain inaccuracies such as errors, ideological biases, and
nonsensical or irrelevant text.
Due to the increasing popularity of, popular editions,
including the English version, have introduced editing restrictions in
some cases. For instance, on the English and some other
language editions, only registered users may create a new article.
On the English, among others, some particularly
controversial, sensitive and/or vandalism-prone pages have been
protected to some degree. A frequently vandalized article can
be semi-protected or extended confirmed protected, meaning that only
autoconfirmed or extended confirmed editors are able to modify it.
A particularly contentious article may be locked so that only
administrators are able to make changes.
In certain cases, all editors are allowed to submit modifications, but
review is required for some editors, depending on certain conditions.
For example, the German maintains "stable versions" of
articles, which have passed certain reviews. Following protracted
trials and community discussion, the English introduced the
"pending changes" system in December 2012. Under this system, new
and unregistered users' edits to certain controversial or
vandalism-prone articles are reviewed by established users before they
The editing interface of
Review of changes
Although changes are not systematically reviewed, the software that
powers provides certain tools allowing anyone to review
changes made by others. The "History" page of each article links to
each revision.[notes 7] On most articles, anyone can undo others'
changes by clicking a link on the article's history page. Anyone can
view the latest changes to articles, and anyone may maintain a
"watchlist" of articles that interest them so they can be notified of
any changes. "New pages patrol" is a process whereby newly created
articles are checked for obvious problems.
In 2003, economics PhD student Andrea Ciffolilli argued that the low
transaction costs of participating in a wiki create a catalyst for
collaborative development, and that features such as allowing easy
access to past versions of a page favor "creative construction" over
Main article: Vandalism on
Any change or edit that manipulates content in a way that purposefully
compromises the integrity of is considered vandalism. The
most common and obvious types of vandalism include additions of
obscenities and crude humor. Vandalism can also include advertising
and other types of spam. Sometimes editors commit vandalism by
removing content or entirely blanking a given page. Less common types
of vandalism, such as the deliberate addition of plausible but false
information to an article, can be more difficult to detect. Vandals
can introduce irrelevant formatting, modify page semantics such as the
page's title or categorization, manipulate the underlying code of an
article, or use images disruptively.
John Seigenthaler (1927–2014), subject of the
Obvious vandalism is generally easy to remove from articles;
the median time to detect and fix vandalism is a few minutes.
However, some vandalism takes much longer to repair.
In the Seigenthaler biography incident, an anonymous editor introduced
false information into the biography of American political figure John
Seigenthaler in May 2005. Seigenthaler was falsely presented as a
suspect in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The article
remained uncorrected for four months. Seigenthaler, the founding
editorial director of
USA Today and founder of the
Freedom Forum First
Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, called co-founder
Jimmy Wales and asked whether he had any way of knowing who
contributed the misinformation. Wales replied that he did not,
although the perpetrator was eventually traced. After the
incident, Seigenthaler described as "a flawed and
irresponsible research tool". This incident led to policy changes
at, specifically targeted at tightening up the verifiability
of biographical articles of living people.
Policies and laws
Wikimania, 60 Minutes, CBS, 20 minutes, April 5, 2015, co-founder
Jimmy Wales at Fosdem
Content in is subject to the laws (in particular, copyright
laws) of the United States and of the U.S. state of Virginia, where
the majority of's servers are located. Beyond legal matters,
the editorial principles of are embodied in the "five
pillars" and in numerous policies and guidelines intended to
appropriately shape content. Even these rules are stored in wiki form,
and editors write and revise the website's policies and
Editors can enforce these rules by deleting or
modifying non-compliant material. Originally, rules on the non-English
editions of were based on a translation of the rules for the
English. They have since diverged to some extent.
Content policies and guidelines
According to the rules on the English, each entry in
must be about a topic that is encyclopedic and is not a
dictionary entry or dictionary-like. A topic should also meet
Wikipedia's standards of "notability", which generally means that
the topic must have been covered in mainstream media or major academic
journal sources that are independent of the article's subject.
Further, intends to convey only knowledge that is already
established and recognized. It must not present original research.
A claim that is likely to be challenged requires a reference to a
reliable source. Among editors, this is often phrased as
"verifiability, not truth" to express the idea that the readers, not
the encyclopedia, are ultimately responsible for checking the
truthfulness of the articles and making their own interpretations.
This can at times lead to the removal of information that is
valid. Finally, must not take sides. All opinions
and viewpoints, if attributable to external sources, must enjoy an
appropriate share of coverage within an article. This is known as
neutral point of view (NPOV).
Wikipedia's initial anarchy integrated democratic and hierarchical
elements over time. An article is not considered to be owned
by its creator or any other editor and is not vetted by any recognized
authority.'s contributors avoid a tragedy of the commons
by internalizing benefits. They do this by experiencing flow and
identifying with and gaining status in the community.
Editors in good standing in the community can run for one of many
levels of volunteer stewardship: this begins with
"administrator", privileged users who can delete pages,
prevent articles from being changed in case of vandalism or editorial
disputes, and try to prevent certain persons from editing. Despite the
name, administrators are not supposed to enjoy any special privilege
in decision-making; instead, their powers are mostly limited to making
edits that have project-wide effects and thus are disallowed to
ordinary editors, and to implement restrictions intended to prevent
certain persons from making disruptive edits (such as
Fewer editors become administrators than in years past, in part
because the process of vetting potential administrators has
become more rigorous.
Bureaucrats name new administrators, solely upon the recommendations
from the community.
Wikipedians often have disputes regarding content, which may result in
repeatedly making opposite changes to an article, known as edit
warring. Over time, has developed a semi-formal
dispute resolution process to assist in such circumstances. In order
to determine community consensus, editors can raise issues at
appropriate community forums,[notes 8] or seek outside input through
third opinion requests or by initiating a more general community
discussion known as a request for comment.
Main article: Arbitration Committee
Arbitration Committee presides over the ultimate dispute
resolution process. Although disputes usually arise from a
disagreement between two opposing views on how an article should read,
Arbitration Committee explicitly refuses to directly rule on the
specific view that should be adopted. Statistical analyses suggest
that the committee ignores the content of disputes and rather focuses
on the way disputes are conducted, functioning not so much to
resolve disputes and make peace between conflicting editors, but to
weed out problematic editors while allowing potentially productive
editors back in to participate. Therefore, the committee does not
dictate the content of articles, although it sometimes condemns
content changes when it deems the new content violates
policies (for example, if the new content is considered biased). Its
remedies include cautions and probations (used in 63% of cases) and
banning editors from articles (43%), subject matters (23%), or
(16%). Complete bans from are generally limited to
instances of impersonation and anti-social behavior. When conduct is
not impersonation or anti-social, but rather anti-consensus or in
violation of editing policies, remedies tend to be limited to
Main article: community
Wikimania 2005 – an annual conference for users of
and other projects operated by the Wikimedia Foundation, was
held in Frankfurt am Main,
Germany from August 4 to 8.
Each article and each user of has an associated "Talk" page.
These form the primary communication channel for editors to discuss,
coordinate and debate.
British Museum curators collaborate on the article
Hoxne Hoard in June 2010
Wikipedia's community has been described as cult-like, although
not always with entirely negative connotations. The project's
preference for cohesiveness, even if it requires compromise that
includes disregard of credentials, has been referred to as
Wikipedians sometimes award one another virtual barnstars for good
work. These personalized tokens of appreciation reveal a wide range of
valued work extending far beyond simple editing to include social
support, administrative actions, and types of articulation work.
does not require that its editors and contributors provide
identification. As grew, "Who writes?" became
one of the questions frequently asked on the project. Jimmy Wales
once argued that only "a community ... a dedicated group of a few
hundred volunteers" makes the bulk of contributions to and
that the project is therefore "much like any traditional
organization". In 2008, a Slate magazine article reported that:
"According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of users
are responsible for about half of the site's edits." This method
of evaluating contributions was later disputed by Aaron Swartz, who
noted that several articles he sampled had large portions of their
content (measured by number of characters) contributed by users with
low edit counts.
The English has 5,608,625 articles, 33,325,786 registered
editors, and 136,946 active editors. An editor is considered active if
they have made one or more edits in the past thirty days.
Editors who fail to comply with cultural rituals, such as
signing talk page comments, may implicitly signal that they are
outsiders, increasing the odds that insiders may
target or discount their contributions. Becoming a insider
involves non-trivial costs: the contributor is expected to learn
Wikipedia-specific technological codes, submit to a sometimes
convoluted dispute resolution process, and learn a "baffling culture
rich with in-jokes and insider references".
Editors who do not
log in are in some sense second-class citizens on, as
"participants are accredited by members of the wiki community, who
have a vested interest in preserving the quality of the work product,
on the basis of their ongoing participation", but the
contribution histories of anonymous unregistered editors recognized
only by their
IP addresses cannot be attributed to a particular editor
A 2007 study by researchers from
Dartmouth College found that
"anonymous and infrequent contributors to [...] are as
reliable a source of knowledge as those contributors who register with
Jimmy Wales stated in 2009 that "(I)t turns out over
50% of all the edits are done by just .7% of the users... 524
people... And in fact the most active 2%, which is 1400 people, have
done 73.4% of all the edits." However,
Business Insider editor
Henry Blodget showed in 2009 that in a random sample of
articles, most content in (measured by the amount of
contributed text that survives to the latest sampled edit) is created
by "outsiders", while most editing and formatting is done by
A 2008 study found thatns were less agreeable, open, and
conscientious than others, although a later commentary
pointed out serious flaws, including that the data showed higher
openness, that the differences with the control group were small as
were the samples. According to a 2009 study, there is "evidence
of growing resistance from the community to new
Several studies have shown that most of the contributors are
male. Notably, the results of a
Wikimedia Foundation survey in 2008
showed that 13% of editors were female. Because of
this, universities throughout the country tried to encourage females
to become contributors. Similarly, many of these
Yale and Brown, gave college credit to
students who create or edit an article relating to women in science or
technology. Andrew Lih, a professor and scientist, wrote in the
New York Times, wrote that the reason he thought the number of male
contributors outnumbered the number of females so greatly, is because
identifying as a feminist may expose oneself to "ugly, intimidating
Main article: List ofs
There are currently 299 language editions of (also called
language versions, or simplys). Thirteen of these have over
one million articles each (English, Cebuano, Swedish, German, Dutch,
French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Waray-Waray, Polish, Vietnamese and
Japanese), six more have over 500,000 articles (Portuguese, Chinese,
Ukrainian, Persian, Catalan and Arabic), 40 more have over 100,000
articles, and 78 more have over 10,000 articles. The
largest, the English, has over 5.6 million articles. As of
September 2017[update], according to Alexa, the English subdomain
(en.wikipedia.org; English) receives approximately 57% of
Wikipedia's cumulative traffic, with the remaining split among the
other languages (Russian: 7%; Spanish: 6%; Japanese: 6%; Chinese:
5%). As of April 2018, the six largest language editions are (in
order of article count) the English, Cebuano, Swedish, German, French,
Distribution of the 47,782,232 articles in different language editions
(as of 9 April 2018)
Logarithmic graph of the 20 largest language editions of
(as of 9 April 2018)
(millions of articles)
The unit for the numbers in bars is articles.
A graph for pageviews of Turkish shows a great drop of
roughly 80 % immediately after the 2017 block of in
Turkey was imposed.
Since is based on the Web and therefore worldwide,
contributors to the same language edition may use different dialects
or may come from different countries (as is the case for the English
edition). These differences may lead to some conflicts over spelling
differences (e.g. colour versus color) or points of view.
Though the various language editions are held to global policies such
as "neutral point of view", they diverge on some points of policy and
practice, most notably on whether images that are not licensed freely
may be used under a claim of fair use.
Jimmy Wales has described as "an effort to create and
distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to
every single person on the planet in their own language". Though
each language edition functions more or less independently, some
efforts are made to supervise them all. They are coordinated in part
by Meta-Wiki, the Wikimedia Foundation's wiki devoted to maintaining
all of its projects (and others). For instance,
Wiki provides important statistics on all language editions of
Wikipedia, and it maintains a list of articles every
should have. The list concerns basic content by subject:
biography, history, geography, society, culture, science, technology,
and mathematics. As for the rest, it is not rare for articles strongly
related to a particular language not to have counterparts in another
edition. For example, articles about small towns in the United States
might only be available in English, even when they meet notability
criteria of other language projects.
Estimation of contributions shares from different regions in the world
to different editions
Translated articles represent only a small portion of articles in most
editions, in part because fully automated translation of articles is
disallowed. Articles available in more than one language may
offer "interwiki links", which link to the counterpart articles in
A study published by
PLoS ONE in 2012 also estimated the share of
contributions to different editions of from different
regions of the world. It reported that the proportion of the edits
North America was 51% for the English, and 25% for
the simple English. The
Wikimedia Foundation hopes to
increase the number of editors in the Global South to 37% by
English editor decline
On March 1, 2014,
The Economist in an article titled "The Future of
Wikipedia" cited a trend analysis concerning data published by
Wikimedia stating that: "The number of editors for the
English-language version has fallen by a third in seven years."
The attrition rate for active editors in English was cited
The Economist as substantially in contrast to statistics for
in other languages (non-English). The Economist
reported that the number of contributors with an average of five of
more edits per month was relatively constant since 2008 for
in other languages at approximately 42,000 editors within narrow
seasonal variances of about 2,000 editors up or down. The attrition
rates for editors in English, by sharp comparison, were
cited as peaking in 2007 at approximately 50,000 editors, which has
dropped to 30,000 editors as of the start of 2014. At the quoted trend
rate, the number of active editors in English has lost
approximately 20,000 editors to attrition since 2007, and the
documented trend rate indicates the loss of another 20,000 editors by
2021, down to 10,000 active editors on English by 2021 if
left unabated. Given that the trend analysis published in The
Economist presents the number of active editors for in other
languages (non-English) as remaining relatively constant and
successful in sustaining its numbers at approximately 42,000 active
editors, the contrast has pointed to the effectiveness of in
other languages to retain its active editors on a renewable and
sustained basis. No comment was made concerning which of the
differentiated edit policy standards from in other languages
(non-English) would provide a possible alternative to
English for effectively ameliorating substantial editor
attrition rates on the English-language.
See also: Academic studies about and Criticism of
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (March 2018)
Severalns have criticized's large and growing
regulation, which includes over 50 policies and nearly 150,000 words
as of 2014[update].
Critics have stated that exhibits systemic bias. In 2010,
columnist and journalist
Edwin Black criticized for being a
mixture of "truth, half truth, and some falsehoods". Articles in
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Journal of Academic
Librarianship have criticized's Undue Weight policy,
concluding that the fact that explicitly is not designed to
provide correct information about a subject, but rather focus on all
the major viewpoints on the subject and give less attention to minor
ones, creates omissions that can lead to false beliefs based on
Oliver Kamm and
Edwin Black noted (in 2010 and 2011
respectively) how articles are dominated by the loudest and most
persistent voices, usually by a group with an "ax to grind" on the
topic. A 2008 article in
Education Next Journal concluded
that as a resource about controversial topics, is subject to
manipulation and spin.
In 2006, the Watch criticism website listed dozens of
examples of plagiarism in the English.
Accuracy of content
Main article: Reliability of
Articles for traditional encyclopedias such as Encyclopædia
Britannica are carefully and deliberately written by experts, lending
such encyclopedias a reputation for accuracy. However, a peer
review in 2005 of forty-two scientific entries on both and
Encyclopædia Britannica by the science journal Nature found few
differences in accuracy, and concluded that "the average science entry
in contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about
three." Reagle suggested that while the study reflects "a topical
strength of contributors" in science articles, "Wikipedia
may not have fared so well using a random sampling of articles or on
humanities subjects." The findings by Nature were disputed by
Encyclopædia Britannica, and in response, Nature gave a
rebuttal of the points raised by Britannica. In addition to the
point-for-point disagreement between these two parties, others have
examined the sample size and selection method used in the Nature
effort, and suggested a "flawed study design" (in Nature's manual
selection of articles, in part or in whole, for comparison), absence
of statistical analysis (e.g., of reported confidence intervals), and
a lack of study "statistical power" (i.e., owing to small sample size,
42 or 4 × 101 articles compared, vs >105 and >106 set sizes for
Britannica and the English, respectively).
As a consequence of the open structure, "makes no guarantee
of validity" of its content, since no one is ultimately responsible
for any claims appearing in it. Concerns have been raised by PC
World in 2009 regarding the lack of accountability that results from
users' anonymity, the insertion of false information,
vandalism, and similar problems.
Tyler Cowen wrote: "If I had to guess whether or
the median refereed journal article on economics was more likely to be
true, after a not so long think I would opt for." He
comments that some traditional sources of non-fiction suffer from
systemic biases and novel results, in his opinion, are over-reported
in journal articles and relevant information is omitted from news
reports. However, he also cautions that errors are frequently found on
Internet sites, and that academics and experts must be vigilant in
Critics argue that's open nature and a lack of proper
sources for most of the information makes it unreliable. Some
commentators suggest that may be reliable, but that the
reliability of any given article is not clear.
traditional reference works such as the
Encyclopædia Britannica have
questioned the project's utility and status as an encyclopedia.
Inside – Attack of the PR Industry, Deutsche Welle, 7:13
Wikipedia's open structure inherently makes it an easy target for
Internet trolls, spammers, and various forms of paid advocacy seen as
counterproductive to the maintenance of a neutral and verifiable
online encyclopedia. In response to paid advocacy editing and
undisclosed editing issues, was reported in an article by
Jeff Elder in
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal on June 16, 2014, to have
strengthened its rules and laws against undisclosed editing. The
article stated that: "Beginning Monday [from date of article], changes
to disclose that arrangement. Katherine Maher, the nonprofit Wikimedia
Foundation's chief communications officer, said the changes address a
sentiment among volunteer editors that, 'we're not an advertising
service; we're an encyclopedia.'" These
issues, among others, had been parodied since the first decade of
Wikipedia, notably by
Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.
A Harvard law textbook, Legal Research in a Nutshell (2011), cites
as a "general source" that "can be a real boon" in "coming
up to speed in the law governing a situation" and, "while not
authoritative, can provide basic facts as well as leads to more
Discouragement in education
Most university lecturers discourage students from citing any
encyclopedia in academic work, preferring primary sources; some
specifically prohibit citations. Wales stresses
that encyclopedias of any type are not usually appropriate to use as
citable sources, and should not be relied upon as authoritative.
Wales once (2006 or earlier) said he receives about ten emails weekly
from students saying they got failing grades on papers because they
cited; he told the students they got what they deserved.
"For God's sake, you're in college; don't cite the encyclopedia", he
In February 2007, an article in
The Harvard Crimson
The Harvard Crimson newspaper reported
that a few of the professors at
Harvard University were including
articles in their syllabi, although without realizing the
articles might change. In June 2007, former president of the
American Library Association
American Library Association Michael Gorman condemned, along
with Google, stating that academics who endorse the use of
are "the intellectual equivalent of a dietitian who
recommends a steady diet of Big Macs with everything".
See also: Health information on
On March 5, 2014, Julie Beck writing for
The Atlantic magazine in an
article titled "Doctors' #1 Source for Healthcare Information:
Wikipedia", stated that "Fifty percent of physicians look up
conditions on the (Wikipedia) site, and some are editing articles
themselves to improve the quality of available information." Beck
continued to detail in this article new programs of Dr.
Amin Azzam at
the University of San Francisco to offer medical school courses to
medical students for learning to edit and improve articles
on health-related issues, as well as internal quality control programs
within organized by Dr.
James Heilman to improve a group of
200 health-related articles of central medical importance up to
Wikipedia's highest standard of articles using its Featured Article
and Good Article peer review evaluation process. In a May 7,
2014, follow-up article in
The Atlantic titled "Can Ever Be
a Definitive Medical Text?", Julie Beck quotes Wikiproject Medicine's
James Heilman as stating: "Just because a reference is
peer-reviewed doesn't mean it's a high-quality reference." Beck
added that: "has its own peer review process before articles
can be classified as 'good' or 'featured.' Heilman, who has
participated in that process before, says 'less than 1 percent' of
Wikipedia's medical articles have passed.
Quality of writing
In 2008, researchers at
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University found that the
quality of a article would suffer rather than gain from
adding more writers when the article lacked appropriate explicit or
implicit coordination. For instance, when contributors rewrite
small portions of an entry rather than making full-length revisions,
high- and low-quality content may be intermingled within an entry. Roy
Rosenzweig, a history professor, stated that American National
Biography Online outperformed in terms of its "clear and
engaging prose", which, he said, was an important aspect of good
historical writing. Contrasting's treatment of Abraham
Lincoln to that of Civil War historian James McPherson in American
National Biography Online, he said that both were essentially accurate
and covered the major episodes in Lincoln's life, but praised
"McPherson's richer contextualization [...] his artful use of
quotations to capture Lincoln's voice [...] and [...] his ability to
convey a profound message in a handful of words." By contrast, he
gives an example of's prose that he finds "both verbose and
dull". Rosenzweig also criticized the "waffling—encouraged by the
NPOV policy—[which] means that it is hard to discern any overall
interpretive stance in history". By example, he quoted the
conclusion of's article on William Clarke Quantrill. While
generally praising the article, he pointed out its "waffling"
conclusion: "Some historians [...] remember him as an opportunistic,
bloodthirsty outlaw, while others continue to view him as a daring
soldier and local folk hero."
Other critics have made similar charges that, even if
articles are factually accurate, they are often written in a poor,
almost unreadable style. Frequent critic Andrew Orlowski
commented, "Even when a entry is 100 per cent factually
correct, and those facts have been carefully chosen, it all too often
reads as if it has been translated from one language to another then
into a third, passing an illiterate translator at each stage." A
study of articles on cancer was conducted in 2010 by Yaacov
Lawrence of the Kimmel
Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University.
The study was limited to those articles that could be found in the
Physician Data Query and excluded those written at the "start" class
or "stub" class level. Lawrence found the articles accurate but not
very readable, and thought that "Wikipedia's lack of readability (to
non-college readers) may reflect its varied origins and haphazard
The Economist argued that better-written articles tend
to be more reliable: "inelegant or ranting prose usually reflects
muddled thoughts and incomplete information".
Coverage of topics and systemic bias
See also: Notability in the English and Criticism of
Systemic bias in coverage
Parts of this article (those related to
d:Wikidata:Statistics/Wikipedia) need to be updated. Please update
this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.
seeks to create a summary of all human knowledge in the form
of an online encyclopedia, with each topic covered encyclopedically in
one article. Since it has terabytes of disk space, it can have far
more topics than can be covered by any printed encyclopedia. The
exact degree and manner of coverage on is under constant
review by its editors, and disagreements are not uncommon (see
deletionism and inclusionism). contains materials
that some people may find objectionable, offensive, or pornographic
because is not censored. The policy has sometimes proved
controversial: in 2008, rejected an online petition against
the inclusion of images of
Muhammad in the English edition of its
Muhammad article, citing this policy. The presence of politically,
religiously, and pornographically sensitive materials in has
led to the censorship of by national authorities in
China, and Pakistan amongst other countries.
Pie chart of content by subject as of January 2008
A 2008 study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University
Palo Alto Research Center
Palo Alto Research Center gave a distribution of topics as well as
growth (from July 2006 to January 2008) in each field:
Culture and the arts: 30% (210%)
Biographies and persons: 15% (97%)
Geography and places: 14% (52%)
Society and social sciences: 12% (83%)
History and events: 11% (143%)
Natural and physical sciences: 9% (213%)
Technology and the applied sciences: 4% (−6%)
Religions and belief systems: 2% (38%)
Health: 2% (42%)
Mathematics and logic: 1% (146%)
Thought and philosophy: 1% (160%)
These numbers refer only to the quantity of articles: it is possible
for one topic to contain a large number of short articles and another
to contain a small number of large ones. Through its "Loves
Libraries" program, has partnered with major public
libraries such as the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
to expand its coverage of underrepresented subjects and articles.
A 2011 study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota
indicated that male and female editors focus on different coverage
topics. There was a greater concentration of females in the People and
Arts category, while males focus more on Geography and Science.
Coverage of topics and selection bias
Research conducted by Mark Graham of the
Oxford Internet Institute
Oxford Internet Institute in
2009 indicated that the geographic distribution of article topics is
highly uneven. Africa is most underrepresented. Across 30
language editions of, historical articles and sections are
generally Eurocentric and focused on recent events.
An editorial in
The Guardian in 2014 noted that women porn stars are
better covered than women writers as a further example.
When multiple editors contribute to one topic or set of topics,
systemic bias may arise, due to the demographic backgrounds of the
editors. In 2011, Wales noted that the unevenness of coverage is a
reflection of the demography of the editors, which predominantly
consists of young males with high education levels in the developed
world (cf. previously). The October 22, 2013 essay by Tom Simonite
Technology Review titled "The Decline of" discussed
the effect of systemic bias and policy creep on the downward trend in
the number of editors.
Systemic bias on may follow that of culture generally, for
example favoring certain nationalities, ethnicities or majority
religions. It may more specifically follow the biases of Internet
culture, inclining to being young, male, English-speaking, educated,
technologically aware, and wealthy enough to spare time for editing.
Biases of its own may include over-emphasis on topics such as pop
culture, technology, and current events.
Taha Yasseri of the University of Oxford, in 2013, studied the
statistical trends of systemic bias at introduced by editing
conflicts and their resolution. His research examined the
counterproductive work behavior of edit warring. Yasseri contended
that simple reverts or "undo" operations were not the most significant
measure of counterproductive behavior at and relied instead
on the statistical measurement of detecting "reverting/reverted pairs"
or "mutually reverting edit pairs". Such a "mutually reverting edit
pair" is defined where one editor reverts the edit of another editor
who then, in sequence, returns to revert the first editor in the
"mutually reverting edit pairs". The results were tabulated for
several language versions of. The English's three
largest conflict rates belonged to the articles George W. Bush,
Anarchism and Muhammad. By comparison, for the German,
the three largest conflict rates at the time of the
Oxford study were
for the articles covering (i) Croatia, (ii)
Scientology and (iii) 9/11
Researchers from the
Washington University developed a statistical
model to measure systematic bias in the behavior of's users
regarding controversial topics. The authors focused on behavioral
changes of the encyclopedia's administrators after assuming the post,
writing that systematic bias occurred after the fact.
Identifying the filter-bubble problem
Dimitra Kessenides, writing for
Bloomberg News Weekly, identified the
'filter-bubble' problem as a recurrent and long-standing issue at
Wikipedia. As Kessenides states: "If the only way to get an
article about the developing world published on was to know
a former board member, it was hard to imagine how a random editor in
Johannesburg or Bangalore would have any hope... This so-called
filter-bubble problem, coined by Eli Pariser, co-founder of the viral
video site Upworthy, is the idea that the internet can contribute to
the insularity of certain communities. Filter bubbles have been blamed
for the spread of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election
and for the failure of pundits in the U.K. to anticipate Brexit...
Wikipedia's filter-bubble problem is a particularly acute threat for
an organization whose stated mission is 'to empower and engage people
around the world.'"
Internet Watch Foundation
Internet Watch Foundation and and Reporting of
child pornography images on Wikimedia Commons
has been criticized for allowing information of graphic
content. Articles depicting what some critics have called
objectionable content (such as Feces, Cadaver, Human penis, Vulva, and
Nudity) contain graphic pictures and detailed information easily
available to anyone with access to the internet, including children.
The site also includes sexual content such as images and videos of
masturbation and ejaculation, illustrations of zoophilia, and photos
from hardcore pornographic films in its articles. It also has
non-sexual photographs of nude children.
The article about Virgin Killer—a 1976 album from German
heavy metal band Scorpions—features a picture of the album's
original cover, which depicts a naked prepubescent girl. The original
release cover caused controversy and was replaced in some countries.
In December 2008, access to the article
Virgin Killer was
blocked for four days by most
Internet service providers in the United
Kingdom after the
Internet Watch Foundation
Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) decided the album
cover was a potentially illegal indecent image and added the article's
URL to a "blacklist" it supplies to British internet service
In April 2010, Sanger wrote a letter to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, outlining his concerns that two categories of images on
Wikimedia Commons contained child pornography, and were in violation
of US federal obscenity law. Sanger later clarified that the
images, which were related to pedophilia and one about lolicon, were
not of real children, but said that they constituted "obscene visual
representations of the sexual abuse of children", under the PROTECT
Act of 2003. That law bans photographic child pornography and
cartoon images and drawings of children that are obscene under
American law. Sanger also expressed concerns about access to the
images on in schools.
Wikimedia Foundation spokesman
Jay Walsh strongly rejected Sanger's accusation, saying that
did not have "material we would deem to be illegal. If we
did, we would remove it." Following the complaint by Sanger,
Wales deleted sexual images without consulting the community. After
some editors who volunteer to maintain the site argued that the
decision to delete had been made hastily, Wales voluntarily gave up
some of the powers he had held up to that time as part of his
co-founder status. He wrote in a message to the Wikimedia Foundation
mailing-list that this action was "in the interest of encouraging this
discussion to be about real philosophical/content issues, rather than
be about me and how quickly I acted". Critics, including
Wikipediocracy, noticed that many of the pornographic images deleted
from since 2010 have reappeared.
One privacy concern in the case of is the right of a private
citizen to remain a "private citizen" rather than a "public figure" in
the eyes of the law.[notes 9] It is a battle between the right to
be anonymous in cyberspace and the right to be anonymous in real life
("meatspace"). A particular problem occurs in the case of an
individual who is relatively unimportant and for whom there exists a
page against her or his wishes.
In January 2006, a German court ordered the German shut down
Germany because it stated the full name of Boris Floricic, aka
"Tron", a deceased hacker. On February 9, 2006, the injunction against
Wikimedia Deutschland was overturned, with the court rejecting the
notion that Tron's right to privacy or that of his parents was being
has a "Volunteer Response Team" that uses the
OTRS system to
handle queries without having to reveal the identities of the involved
parties. This is used, for example, in confirming the permission for
using individual images and other media in the project.
Main article: Gender bias in
has been described as harboring a battleground culture of
sexism and harassment. The perceived toxic attitudes and
tolerance of violent and abusive language are also reasons put forth
for the gender gap in editors. In 2014, a female editor
who requested a separate space on to discuss improving
civility had her proposal referred to by a male editor using the words
"the easiest way to avoid being called a cunt is not to act like
A group of editors may form a
WikiProject to focus their
work on a specific topic area, using its associated discussion page to
coordinate changes across multiple articles.
Wikimedia Foundation and
Wikimedia movement affiliates
Main article: Wikimedia Foundation
Katherine Maher is the third executive director at Wikimedia,
following the departure of
Lila Tretikov in 2016.
is hosted and funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, a
non-profit organization which also operates-related projects
Wiktionary and Wikibooks. The foundation relies on public
contributions and grants to fund its mission. The foundation's
2013 IRS Form 990 shows revenue of $39.7 million and expenses of
almost $29 million, with assets of $37.2 million and liabilities of
about $2.3 million.
In May 2014,
Wikimedia Foundation named
Lila Tretikov as its second
executive director, taking over for Sue Gardner. The Wall Street
Journal reported on May 1, 2014, that Tretikov's information
technology background from her years at University of California
offers an opportunity to develop in more concentrated
directions guided by her often repeated position statement that,
"Information, like air, wants to be free." The same Wall
Street Journal article reported these directions of development
according to an interview with spokesman Jay Walsh of Wikimedia, who
"said Tretikov would address that issue (paid advocacy) as a priority.
'We are really pushing toward more transparency... We are reinforcing
that paid advocacy is not welcome.' Initiatives to involve greater
diversity of contributors, better mobile support of, new
geo-location tools to find local content more easily, and more tools
for users in the second and third world are also priorities, Walsh
Following the departure of Tretikov from due to issues
concerning the use of the "superprotection" feature which some
language versions of have adopted,
Katherine Maher became
the third executive director the
Wikimedia Foundation in June
2016. Maher has stated that one of her priorities would be the
issue of editor harassment endemic to as identified by the
board in December. Maher stated regarding the harassment
issue that: "It establishes a sense within the community that this is
a priority... (and that correction requires that) it has to be more
is also supported by many organizations and groups that are
affiliated with the
Wikimedia Foundation but independently-run, called
Wikimedia movement affiliates. These include Wikimedia chapters (which
are national or sub-national organizations, such as Wikimedia
Deutschland and Wikimédia France), thematic organizations (such as
Amical Wikimedia for the
Catalan language community), and user groups.
These affiliates participate in the promotion, development, and
Software operations and support
See also: MediaWiki
The operation of depends on MediaWiki, a custom-made, free
and open source wiki software platform written in
PHP and built upon
MySQL database system. The software incorporates programming
features such as a macro language, variables, a transclusion system
for templates, and URL redirection. Media
Wiki is licensed under the
GNU General Public License
GNU General Public License and it is used by all Wikimedia projects,
as well as many other wiki projects. Originally, ran on
Wiki written in
Perl by Clifford Adams (Phase I), which
CamelCase for article hyperlinks; the present
double bracket style was incorporated later. Starting in January 2002
(Phase II), began running on a
PHP wiki engine with a MySQL
database; this software was custom-made for by Magnus
Manske. The Phase II software was repeatedly modified to accommodate
the exponentially increasing demand. In July 2002 (Phase III),
shifted to the third-generation software, MediaWiki,
originally written by Lee Daniel Crocker.
Wiki extensions are installed to extend the
functionality of the Media
In April 2005, a
Lucene extension was added to MediaWiki's
built-in search and switched from
searching. The site currently uses
Lucene Search 2.1,[needs
update] which is written in Java and based on
Lucene library 2.3.
In July 2013, after extensive beta testing, a WYSIWYG (What You See Is
What You Get) extension, VisualEditor, was opened to public
use. It was met with much rejection and criticism,
and was described as "slow and buggy". The feature was changed
from opt-out to opt-in afterward.
Computer programs called bots have been used widely to perform simple
and repetitive tasks, such as correcting common misspellings and
stylistic issues, or to start articles such as geography entries in a
standard format from statistical data. One
controversial contributor massively creating articles with his bot was
reported to create up to ten thousand articles on the Swedish
on certain days. There are also some bots designed to
automatically notify editors when they make common editing errors
(such as unmatched quotes or unmatched parenthesis). Edits
misidentified by a bot as the work of a banned editor can be restored
by other editors. An anti-vandal bot tries to detect and revert
vandalism quickly and automatically. Bots can also report edits
from particular accounts or IP address ranges, as was done at the time
of the MH17 jet downing incident in July 2014. Bots on
must be approved prior to activation.
According to Andrew Lih, the current expansion of to
millions of articles would be difficult to envision without the use of
Wikiprojects, and assessments of articles' importance and quality
This section is transcluded from English. (edit history)
Main article: WikiProject
A "WikiProject" is a group of contributors who want to work together
as a team to improve. These groups often focus on a specific
topic area (for example, women's history), a specific location or a
specific kind of task (for example, checking newly created pages). The
English currently has over 2,000 WikiProjects and activity
In 2007, in preparation for producing a print version, the English
introduced an assessment scale of the quality of
articles. Articles are rated by WikiProjects. The range of
quality classes begins with "Stub" (very short pages), followed by
"Start", "C" and "B" (in increasing order of quality). Community peer
review is needed for the article to enter one of the highest quality
classes: either "good article", "A" or the highest, "featured
article". Of the about 4.4 million articles and lists assessed as of
March 2015, a little more than 5,000 (0.12%) are featured articles,
and fewer than 2,000 (0.04%) are featured lists. One featured article
per day, as selected by editors, appears on the main page of
The articles can also be rated as per "importance" as judged by a
WikiProject. Currently, there are 5 importance categories: "low",
"mid", "high", "top", and "???" for unclassified/uncertain level. For
a particular article, different WikiProjects may assign different
The Version 1.0 Editorial Team has developed a table (shown
below) that displays data of all rated articles by quality and
importance, on the English. If an article or list receives
different ratings by two or more WikiProjects, then the highest rating
is used in the table, pie-charts, and bar-chart. The software
regularly auto-updates the data.
Researcher Giacomo Poderi found that articles tend to reach featured
status via the intensive work of a few editors. A 2010 study
found unevenness in quality among featured articles and concluded that
the community process is ineffective in assessing the quality of
Quality-wise distribution of over 5.5 million articles and lists on
the English, as of 29 January 2017[update]
Featured articles (0.11%)
Featured lists (0.04%)
A class (0.03%)
Good articles (0.50%)
B class (2.00%)
C class (4.32%)
Start class (26.41%)
Stub class (53.01%)
Importance-wise distribution of over 5.5 million articles and lists on
the English, as of 29 January 2017[update]
All rated articles by quality and importance
Unassessed articles and lists
[Note: The table above (prepared by the Version 1.0
Editorial Team) is automatically updated daily by User:WP 1.0 bot, but
the bar-chart and the two pie-charts are not auto-updated. In them,
new data has to be entered by a editor (i.e. user).]
Hardware operations and support
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (June 2017)
Wikimedia Foundation § Hardware
receives between 25,000 and 60,000 page requests per second,
depending on time of day. As of 2008[update] page requests are
first passed to a front-end layer of Squid caching servers.[needs
update] Further statistics, based on a publicly available 3-month
access trace, are available. Requests that cannot be
served from the Squid cache are sent to load-balancing servers running
Linux Virtual Server
Linux Virtual Server software, which in turn pass them to one of
the Apache web servers for page rendering from the database. The web
servers deliver pages as requested, performing page rendering for all
the language editions of. To increase speed further,
rendered pages are cached in a distributed memory cache until
invalidated, allowing page rendering to be skipped entirely for most
common page accesses.
Overview of system architecture as of December 2010[update]
currently runs on dedicated clusters of
(mainly Ubuntu). As of December 2009[update], there
were 300 in
Florida and 44 in Amsterdam. By January 22, 2013,
had migrated its primary data center to an
in Ashburn, Virginia.
Internal research and operational development
In accordance with growing amounts of incoming donations exceeding
seven digits in 2013 as recently reported, the Foundation has
reached a threshold of assets which qualify its consideration under
the principles of industrial organization economics to indicate the
need for the re-investment of donations into the internal research and
development of the Foundation. Two of the recent projects of such
internal research and development have been the creation of a Visual
Editor and a largely under-utilized "Thank" tab which were developed
for the purpose of ameliorating issues of editor attrition, which have
met with limited success. The estimates for reinvestment by
industrial organizations into internal research and development was
studied by Adam Jaffe, who recorded that the range of 4% to 25%
annually was to be recommended, with high end technology requiring the
higher level of support for internal reinvestment. At the 2013
level of contributions for Wikimedia presently documented as 45
million dollars, the computed budget level recommended by Jaffe and
Caballero for reinvestment into internal research and development is
between 1.8 million and 11.3 million dollars annually. In 2016,
the level of contributions were reported by
Bloomberg News as being at
$77 million annually, updating the Jaffe estimates for the higher
level of support to between $3.08 million and $19.2 million
Internal news publications
Community-produced news publications include the English's
The Signpost, founded in 2005 by Michael Snow, an attorney,
administrator and former chair of the
Wikimedia Foundation board of
trustees. It covers news and events from the site, as well as
major events from other Wikimedia projects, such as Wikimedia Commons.
Similar publications are the German-language Kurier, and the
Portuguese-language Correio da Wikipédia. Other past and present
community news publications on English include the
"Wikiworld" web comic, the Weekly podcast, and newsletters
of specific WikiProjects like The Bugle from
History and the monthly newsletter from The Guild of Copy Editors.
There are also a number of publications from the Wikimedia Foundation
and multilingual publications such as the Wikimedia
Blog and This
Month in Education.
Access to content
When the project was started in 2001, all text in was
covered by the
GNU Free Documentation License
GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), a copyleft
license permitting the redistribution, creation of derivative works,
and commercial use of content while authors retain copyright of their
GFDL was created for software manuals that come with
free software programs licensed under the GPL. This made it a poor
choice for a general reference work: for example, the
the reprints of materials from to come with a full copy of
GFDL text. In December 2002, the
Creative Commons license
Creative Commons license was
released: it was specifically designed for creative works in general,
not just for software manuals. The license gained popularity among
bloggers and others distributing creative works on the Web. The
project sought the switch to the Creative Commons.
Because the two licenses,
GFDL and Creative Commons, were
incompatible, in November 2008, following the request of the project,
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation (FSF) released a new version of the GFDL
designed specifically to allow to relicense its content to
CC BY-SA by August 1, 2009. (A new version of the
covers contents.) In April 2009, and its sister
projects held a community-wide referendum which decided the switch in
The handling of media files (e.g. image files) varies across language
editions. Some language editions, such as the English,
include non-free image files under fair use doctrine, while the others
have opted not to, in part because of the lack of fair use doctrines
in their home countries (e.g. in Japanese copyright law). Media files
covered by free content licenses (e.g. Creative Commons' CC BY-SA) are
shared across language editions via
Wikimedia Commons repository, a
project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation.'s
accommodation of varying international copyright laws regarding images
has led some to observe that its photographic coverage of topics lags
behind the quality of the encyclopedic text.
Wikimedia Foundation is not a licensor of content, but merely a
hosting service for the contributors (and licensors) of the.
This position has been successfully defended in court.
Methods of access
Because content is distributed under an open license, anyone
can reuse or re-distribute it at no charge. The content of
has been published in many forms, both online and offline, outside of
Websites – Thousands of "mirror sites" exist that republish content
from: two prominent ones, that also include content from
other reference sources, are
Reference.com and Answers.com. Another
example is Wapedia, which began to display content in a
mobile-device-friendly format before itself did.
Mobile apps – A variety of mobile apps provide access to
on hand-held devices, including both Android and iOS devices (see
apps). (See also Mobile access.)
Search engines – Some web search engines make special use of
content when displaying search results: examples include
Bing (via technology gained from Powerset) and DuckDuckGo.
Compact discs, DVDs – Collections of articles have been
published on optical discs. An English version, 2006 CD
Selection, contained about 2,000 articles. The
Polish-language version contains nearly 240,000 articles. There
are German- and Spanish-language versions as well. Also,
"for Schools", the series of CDs / DVDs produced
byns and SOS Children, is a free, hand-checked,
non-commercial selection from targeted around the UK
National Curriculum and intended to be useful for much of the
English-speaking world. The project is available online; an
equivalent print encyclopedia would require roughly 20 volumes.
Printed books – There are efforts to put a select subset of
Wikipedia's articles into printed book form. Since 2009,
tens of thousands of print-on-demand books that reproduced English,
German, Russian and French articles have been produced by
the American company
Books LLC and by three Mauritian subsidiaries of
the German publisher VDM.
Semantic Web – The website DBpedia, begun in 2007, extracts data
from the infoboxes and category declarations of the English-language
Wikipedia. Wikimedia has created the
Wikidata project with a similar
objective of storing the basic facts from each page of and
the other WMF wikis and make it available in a queriable semantic
format, RDF. This is still under development. As of Feb 2014 it has
15,000,000 items and 1,000 properties for describing them.
Obtaining the full contents of for reuse presents
challenges, since direct cloning via a web crawler is
discouraged. publishes "dumps" of its contents, but
these are text-only; as of 2007[update] there was no dump available of
Several languages of also maintain a reference desk, where
volunteers answer questions from the general public. According to a
study by Pnina Shachaf in the Journal of Documentation, the quality of
the reference desk is comparable to a standard library
reference desk, with an accuracy of 55%.
See also: Help:Mobile access
The mobile version of the English's main page
Wikipedia's original medium was for users to read and edit content
using any standard web browser through a fixed
Although content has been accessible through the mobile web
since July 2013,
The New York Times
The New York Times on February 9, 2014, quoted Erik
Möller, deputy director of the Wikimedia Foundation, stating that the
transition of internet traffic from desktops to mobile devices was
significant and a cause for concern and worry. The article in The
New York Times
New York Times reported the comparison statistics for mobile edits
stating that, "Only 20 percent of the readership of the
English-language comes via mobile devices, a figure
substantially lower than the percentage of mobile traffic for other
media sites, many of which approach 50 percent. And the shift to
mobile editing has lagged even more."
The New York Times
The New York Times reports
that Möller has assigned "a team of 10 software developers focused on
mobile", out of a total of approximately 200 employees working at the
Wikimedia Foundation. One principal concern cited by The New York
Times for the "worry" is for to effectively address
attrition issues with the number of editors which the online
encyclopedia attracts to edit and maintain its content in a mobile
Bloomberg Businessweek reported in July 2014 that Google's Android
mobile apps have dominated the largest share of global smartphone
shipments for 2013 with 78.6% of market share over their next closest
competitor in iOS with 15.2% of the market. At the time of the
Tretikov appointment and her posted web interview with
Sue Gardner in
May 2014, Wikimedia representatives made a technical announcement
concerning the number of mobile access systems in the market seeking
access to. Directly after the posted web interview, the
representatives stated that Wikimedia would be applying an
all-inclusive approach to accommodate as many mobile access systems as
possible in its efforts for expanding general mobile access, including
BlackBerry and the Windows Phone system, making market share a
secondary issue. The latest version of the Android app for
was released on July 23, 2014, to generally positive
reviews, scoring over four of a possible five in a poll of
approximately 200,000 users downloading from Google. The latest
version for iOS was released on April 3, 2013, to similar
Access to from mobile phones was possible as early as 2004,
Wireless Application Protocol
Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), via the Wapedia
service. In June 2007 launched en.mobile.wikipedia.org, an
official website for wireless devices. In 2009 a newer mobile service
was officially released, located at en.m.wikipedia.org, which
caters to more advanced mobile devices such as the iPhone,
Android-based devices or WebOS-based devices. Several other methods of
mobile access to have emerged. Many devices and applications
optimize or enhance the display of content for mobile
devices, while some also incorporate additional features such as use
of metadata (See:Metadata), such as
Zero is an initiative of the
Wikimedia Foundation to expand
the reach of the encyclopedia to the developing countries.
Andrew Lih and Andrew Brown both maintain editing with smart
phones is difficult and this discourages new potential contributors.
Several years running the number of editors has been falling
and Tom Simonite of MIT
Technology Review claims the bureaucratic
structure and rules are a factor in this. Simonite alleges some
Wikipedians use the labyrinthine rules and guidelines to dominate
others and those editors have a vested interest in keeping the status
quo. Lih alleges there is serious disagreement among existing
contributors how to resolve this. Lih fears for's long term
future while Brown fears problems with will remain and rival
encyclopedias will not replace it.
Trusted source to combat fake news
In 2017-18, after a barrage of false news reports, both
YouTube announced they would rely on to help their users
evaluate reports and reject false news. Noam Cohen, writing in the
Washington Post states, "YouTube’s reliance on to set the
record straight builds on the thinking of another fact-challenged
Facebook social network, which announced last year that
would help its users root out 'fake news'."
is extremely popular. In February 2014, The New York Times
reported that is ranked fifth globally among all websites,
stating "With 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique
visitors a month [...] trails just Yahoo, Facebook,
Microsoft and Google, the largest with 1.2 billion unique
In addition to logistic growth in the number of its articles,
has steadily gained status as a general reference website
since its inception in 2001. About 50% of search engine traffic
to comes from Google, a good portion of which is
related to academic research. The number of readers of
worldwide reached 365 million at the end of 2009. The Pew
Internet and American Life project found that one third of US Internet
users consulted. In 2011
Business Insider gave
a valuation of $4 billion if it ran advertisements.
According to "Readership Survey 2011", the average age of
readers is 36, with a rough parity between genders. Almost
half of readers visit the site more than five times a month,
and a similar number of readers specifically look for in
search engine results. About 47% of readers do not realize
that is a non-profit organization.
Main article: in culture
Monument in Słubice, Poland
Wikipedia's content has also been used in academic studies, books,
conferences, and court cases. The Parliament of
Canada's website refers to's article on same-sex marriage in
the "related links" section of its "further reading" list for the
Civil Marriage Act. The encyclopedia's assertions are
increasingly used as a source by organizations such as the US federal
courts and the World Intellectual Property Organization –
though mainly for supporting information rather than information
decisive to a case. Content appearing on has also been
cited as a source and referenced in some US intelligence agency
reports. In December 2008, the scientific journal RNA Biology
launched a new section for descriptions of families of RNA molecules
and requires authors who contribute to the section to also submit a
draft article on the RNA family for publication in.
has also been used as a source in journalism,
often without attribution, and several reporters have been dismissed
for plagiarizing from.
In 2006, Time magazine recognized's participation (along
with YouTube, Reddit, MySpace, and Facebook) in the rapid growth
of online collaboration and interaction by millions of people
In July 2007 was the focus of a 30-minute documentary on BBC
Radio 4 which argued that, with increased usage and awareness,
the number of references to in popular culture is such that
the word is one of a select band of 21st-century nouns that are so
familiar (Google, Facebook, YouTube) that they no longer need
On September 28, 2007, Italian politician
Franco Grillini raised a
parliamentary question with the minister of cultural resources and
activities about the necessity of freedom of panorama. He said that
the lack of such freedom forced, "the seventh most consulted
website", to forbid all images of modern Italian buildings and art,
and claimed this was hugely damaging to tourist revenues.
Wikipedia, an introduction –
Erasmus Prize 2015
Jimmy Wales receiving the Quadriga A Mission of Enlightenment award
On September 16, 2007,
The Washington Post
The Washington Post reported that had
become a focal point in the 2008 US election campaign, saying: "Type a
candidate's name into Google, and among the first results is a
page, making those entries arguably as important as any ad
in defining a candidate. Already, the presidential entries are being
edited, dissected and debated countless times each day." An
Reuters article, titled "page the latest status
symbol", reported the recent phenomenon of how having a
article vindicates one's notability.
Active participation also has an impact. Law students have been
assigned to write articles as an exercise in clear and
succinct writing for an uninitiated audience.
A working group led by Peter Stone (formed as a part of the
Stanford-based project One Hundred Year Study on Artificial
Intelligence) in its report called "the best-known example
of crowdsourcing... that far exceeds traditionally-compiled
information sources, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, in scale
team visiting to Parliament of Asturias
Wikipedians meeting after the Asturias awards ceremony
won two major awards in May 2004. The first was a
Golden Nica for Digital Communities of the annual Prix Ars Electronica
contest; this came with a €10,000 (£6,588; $12,700) grant and an
invitation to present at the PAE Cyberarts Festival in
that year. The second was a Judges'
Webby Award for the "community"
category. was also nominated for a "Best Practices"
In 2007, readers of brandchannel.com voted as the
fourth-highest brand ranking, receiving 15% of the votes in answer to
the question "Which brand had the most impact on our lives in
In September 2008, received Quadriga A Mission of
Enlightenment award of Werkstatt Deutschland along with Boris Tadić,
Eckart Höfling, and Peter Gabriel. The award was presented to Wales
by David Weinberger.
In 2015, was awarded both the annual Erasmus Prize, which
recognizes exceptional contributions to culture, society or social
sciences, and the Spanish
Princess of Asturias Award
Princess of Asturias Award on
International Cooperation. Speaking at the Asturian Parliament in
Oviedo, the city that hosts the awards ceremony,
Jimmy Wales praised
the work of the
Asturian language users. The night of
the ceremony, members of the
Wikimedia Foundation held a meeting with
Wikipedians from all parts of Spain, including the local Asturian
See also: Category:Parodies of.
Many parodies target's openness and susceptibility to
inserted inaccuracies, with characters vandalizing or modifying the
online encyclopedia project's articles.
Stephen Colbert has parodied or referenced on
numerous episodes of his show
The Colbert Report
The Colbert Report and coined the
related term wikiality, meaning "together we can create a reality that
we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on". Another example
can be found in "Celebrates 750 Years of American
Independence", a July 2006 front-page article in The Onion, as
well as the 2010
The Onion article "'L.A. Law' Page Viewed
874 Times Today".
In an episode of the television comedy The Office U.S., which aired in
April 2007, an incompetent office manager (Michael Scott) is shown
relying on a hypothetical article for information on
negotiation tactics in order to assist him in negotiating lesser pay
for an employee. The tactics he used failed, as a joke about the
unreliability of and what anyone can do to change its
contents. Viewers of the show tried to add the episode's mention of
the page as a section of the actual article on negotiation,
but this effort was prevented by other users on the article's talk
"My Number One Doctor", a 2007 episode of the television show Scrubs,
played on the perception that is an unreliable reference
tool with a scene in which Dr.
Perry Cox reacts to a patient who says
that a article indicates that the raw food diet reverses the
effects of bone cancer by retorting that the same editor who wrote
that article also wrote the Battlestar Galactica episode guide.
In 2008, the comedic website
CollegeHumor produced a video sketch
named "Professor", in which the fictitious Professor
instructs a class with a medley of unverifiable and
occasionally absurd statements.
Dilbert comic strip from May 8, 2009, features a character
supporting an improbable claim by saying "Give me ten minutes and then
In July 2009,
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 broadcast a comedy series called Bigipedia,
which was set on a website which was a parody of. Some of
the sketches were directly inspired by and its
In 2010, comedian Daniel Tosh encouraged viewers of his show, Tosh.0,
to visit the show's article and edit it at will. On a later
episode, he commented on the edits to the article, most of them
offensive, which had been made by the audience and had prompted the
article to be locked from editing.
On August 23, 2013, the New Yorker website published a cartoon with
this caption: "Dammit, Manning, have you considered the pronoun war
that this is going to start on your page?" The cartoon
referred to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning),
an American activist, politician, and former United States Army
soldier and a trans woman.
In December 2015,
John Julius Norwich stated, in a letter published in
The Times newspaper, that as an historian he resorted to "at
least a dozen times a day", and had never yet caught it out. He
described it as "a work of reference as useful as any in existence",
with so wide a range that it is almost impossible to find a person,
place or thing that it has left uncovered, and that he could never
have written his last two books without it.
Sister projects – Wikimedia
Main article: Wikimedia project
has also spawned several sister projects, which are also
wikis run by the Wikimedia Foundation. These other Wikimedia projects
include Wiktionary, a dictionary project launched in December
2002, Wikiquote, a collection of quotations created a week after
Wikimedia launched, Wikibooks, a collection of collaboratively written
free textbooks and annotated texts, Wikimedia Commons, a site devoted
to free-knowledge multimedia, Wikinews, for citizen journalism, and
Wikiversity, a project for the creation of free learning materials and
the provision of online learning activities. Another sister
project of, Wikispecies, is a catalogue of species. In 2012
Wikivoyage, an editable travel guide, and Wikidata, an editable
knowledge base, launched.
A group of Wikimedians of the Wikimedia DC chapter at the 2013 DC
Wikimedia annual meeting standing in front of the Encyclopædia
Britannica (back left) at the US National Archives
The most obvious economic effect of has been the death of
commercial encyclopedias, especially the printed versions, e.g.
Encyclopædia Britannica, which were unable to compete with a product
that is essentially free. Nicholas Carr wrote a 2005
essay, "The amorality of Web 2.0", that criticized websites with
user-generated content, like, for possibly leading to
professional (and, in his view, superior) content producers' going out
of business, because "free trumps quality all the time". Carr wrote:
"Implicit in the ecstatic visions of
Web 2.0 is the hegemony of the
amateur. I for one can't imagine anything more frightening."
Others dispute the notion that, or similar efforts, will
entirely displace traditional publications. For instance, Chris
Anderson, the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, wrote in Nature that
the "wisdom of crowds" approach of will not displace top
scientific journals, with their rigorous peer review process.
There is also an ongoing debate about the influence of on
the biography publishing business. "The worry is that, if you can get
all that information from, what's left for biography?" said
Kathryn Hughes, professor of life writing at UEA and author of The
Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton and George Eliot: the Last
Main article: Science information on
has seen been widely used as a corpus for linguistic
research in computational linguistics, information retrieval and
natural language processing. In particular, it commonly serves as a
target knowledge base for the entity linking problem, which is then
called "wikification", and to the related problem of word sense
disambiguation. Methods similar to wikification can in turn be
used to find "missing" links in.
In 2015, French researchers Dr José Lages of the University of
Besançon and Dima Shepelyansky of Paul Sabatier
Toulouse published a global university ranking based on
scholarly citations. They used PageRank
"followed by the number of appearances in the 24 different language
editions of (descending order) and the century in which they
were founded (ascending order)."
A 2017 MIT study suggests that words used on articles end up
in scientific publications.
A number of interactive multimedia encyclopedias incorporating entries
written by the public existed long before was founded. The
first of these was the 1986 BBC Domesday Project, which included text
BBC Micro computers) and photographs from over
1 million contributors in the UK, and covered the geography, art,
and culture of the UK. This was the first interactive multimedia
encyclopedia (and was also the first major multimedia document
connected through internal links), with the majority of articles being
accessible through an interactive map of the UK. The user interface
and part of the content of the Domesday Project were emulated on a
website until 2008.
Several free-content, collaborative encyclopedias were created around
the same period as (e.g. Everything2), with many later
being merged into the project (e.g. GNE). One of the most
successful early online encyclopedias incorporating entries by the
public was h2g2, which was created by
Douglas Adams in 1999. The h2g2
encyclopedia is relatively light-hearted, focusing on articles which
are both witty and informative.
Subsequent collaborative knowledge websites have drawn inspiration
from. Some, such as Susning.nu, Enciclopedia Libre, Hudong,
Baidu Baike likewise employ no formal review process, although
Conservapedia are not as open. Others use more traditional
peer review, such as
Encyclopedia of Life and the online wiki
Scholarpedia and Citizendium. The latter was started by
Sanger in an attempt to create a reliable alternative to
Outline of – guide to the subject of
presented as a tree structured list of its subtopics; for an outline
of the contents of, see Portal:Contents/Outlines
Conflict-of-interest editing on
Democratization of knowledge
Interpedia, an early proposal for a collaborative Internet
List of controversies
Print art project to visualize how big is. In
cooperation with Wikimedia foundation.
QRpedia – multilingual, mobile interface to
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^ English's full protection policy
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Cite error: A list-defined reference named "BBC" is not used in the
content (see the help page).
Cite error: A list-defined reference named "NYT WP contributors gender
1" is not used in the content (see the help page).
^ Many (but not all) of the glyphs featured are equivalent to the
English letter W or sounds "wi", "wo" or "wa". See logo.
^ Registration is required for certain tasks such as editing protected
pages, creating pages in the English, and uploading files.
^ For a user to be considered active in a given month, one or more
actions have had to have been made in said month.
^ Wikis are a type of website. The word "wiki" itself is from the
Hawaiian word for "quick".
^ As of 08:02, Monday, April 9, 2018 (UTC)
^ The procrastination principle dictates that you should wait for
problems to arise before solving them.
^ Revisions with libelous content, criminal threats, or copyright
infringements may be removed completely.
^ See for example the Biographies of Living Persons Noticeboard or
Neutral Point of View Noticeboard, created to address content falling
under their respective areas.
^ See "Libel" by David McHam for the legal distinction
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Kat Walsh and Sue Gardner
(audio, 53:58, Flash required).
Other media coverage
See also: List of films about
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"Is Cracking Up?" The Independent, February 3, 2009.
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