The quest for global accuracy.
YOU know a website is truly successful when its name becomes a verb and if you don’t believe us, you can ‘‘ google it’’ or ‘‘ wiki it’’.
While Google Inc is an American multinational public corporation, Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
In 10 years, the site has gained much credibility.
A turning point was reached in 2005, when researchers collated articles from both Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica to be sent to relevant experts for peer review.
The verdict was that there were serious errors in eight articles submitted, four from each sources.
The team of editors behind Wikipedia took this as something of a victory. And why not? Wikipedia is maintained by a small and dedicated group of volunteers whose job is to make sure all entries are as accurate, well-researched, referenced and up-to-date as possible.
The annual Wikimania Meetup takes place in a different city each year, attracting volunteers from 70 countries around the world to discuss the site’s maintenance with co-founder Jimmy Wales.
Wikipedia is an everyday thing for us in Australia, but easy access to the site isn’t a global reality.
The ‘‘ great firewall of China’’ has blocked the site on a number of occasions, along with a number of other websites.
Censorship is extreme, but some control is important to the open-edited encyclopedia.
Wikipedia’s philosophy of open-sourced openness has made it an easy target for jokes, criticism and even vandalism.
American political satirist Stephen Colbert famously encouraged his viewers to vandalise the site for fun and pages have been altered to report premature deaths of identities including US Senator Ted Kennedy ( now deceased) and teen sensation Miley Cyrus.
As a result of the site’s editable function, teachers, journalists and news sources have warned us that it shouldn’t be trusted.
But now it has been 10 years since the website published its first article.
More then 10 million articles later – more than 3.5 million articles in English and articles in 250 other languages – it has become a global go-to for fact-finders.
Wikipedia represents the original promise of the internet: that of global online collaboration in the public interest.
IN THE KNOW: Wikipedia has opened up a new world.
Picture illustration: Lane Hartwell