In praise of… Wikipedia

One of the great creations of the internet era has to be Wikipedia. Unsurprising then that it’s the sixth most visited site globally after Google, YouTube, Facebook, Baidu and Yahoo.

Yes, there are some criticisms but for me these are atomic thin in the context of the wider essence and beauty of the site. As a (growing, dynamic, free, independent) repository of information it is unsurpassed and a beguiling source of knowledge about the world.

Launched in January 2001, the site consists of more than 40 million articles in more than 290 different languages, according to Wikipedia’s own Wikipedia entry. It has had in excess of 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month.

With 5.3 million articles, the English Wikipedia is the largest of the more than 290 Wikipedia encyclopaedias. As at February 2017, the six largest language editions are (in order of article count) the English, Cebuano, Swedish, German, Dutch, and French Wikipedias.

I hadn’t even heard of Cebuano but it is, according to Wikipedia, “an Austronesian regional language spoken in the Philippines by about 20 million people.” A click on the word ‘Austronesian’ tells me, “Austronesian languages are spoken by about 386 million people, making it the fifth-largest language family by number of speakers.”

Another link says: “The home of the Austronesian languages is the main island of Taiwan”… while Taiwan’s Wikipedia page informs me that “baseball is Taiwan’s national sport.” And so it goes on. Unsurprising that the Wiki Game was created, based around the shortest number of links between two pages… (along with a host of other Wikipedia-based games).

It will be interesting to see where Wikipedia goes and how it evolves going forward. The simplicity of the site and its basic premise has worked extremely well so far, so I for one hope it just keeps on doing what it’s doing.

Written by Hugh Fasken, Director

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