Happy Birthday, Wikipedia!
by 👨💻 Graham Pierrepoint
Last week, the Internet’s own ground-breaking pantheon of knowledge on just about everything – Wikipedia – celebrated its fifteenth birthday, marking a milestone for one of the web’s most visited sources for information and research. Certainly, while the site has only been with us in its current from since January 2001, many of us wonder where we ever were without it – if not using Microsoft’s once trailblazing software, Encarta, we would no doubt have to nosy our way into thick encyclopedias, or, perish the thought, do further reading ourselves!
The Internet has expanded in a huge way since Wikipedia first debuted, and while it has become something of an immovable force online – which isn’t without its detractors, due to its openly editable nature – it is still hugely dependent upon volunteer editing and monetary donations, running regular fundraisers which are generally met with wide backing from users worldwide. The open encyclopedia's English edition has surpassed five million individual articles, created, edited and moderated by members of the public.
While Wikipedia’s open nature and platform has been open to criticism and vandalism over the years, restrictions and moderation in place currently see that style and content guidelines are adhered to as much as physically possible – and with the site being able to link IP addresses to edits, and previous versions of pages always being available, it continues to be a well-moderated system, albeit still coming under fire from occasional vandalism. Such an open system has led people to warn that Wikipedia should not be treated as a primary source for facts and figures, however, citations are encouraged to be given if any large edits are made to pages. In this way, perhaps Wikipedia has gained a little more foundation in its articles’ claims – but many would still encourage you to research primary sources before relying upon the site to give you a breakdown of facts.
The source of headaches for teachers everywhere, Wikipedia is nevertheless still celebrated as one of the Internet’s most useful resources, and with a trust fund having recently been set up to help bolster its future for years to come, it’s likely that it will continue to cement itself as part of our online experience for considerable time to come. In a way, for many users, it feels as if the site has never been away – and many others old enough might regret not having the tool around to help with homework back in the day!
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