Wikipedia, the free, collaborative encyclopedia written in 300 languages by volunteers around the world, turns 20 today. It is one of the 15 most popular websites as ranked by Alexa, and was listed as the 13th most visited place on the web by The Economist. Run as a non-profit, and funded primarily through donations, the site does not feature any advertisements.
Once considered an impossible project, its success deserves to be applauded. Its role as a formidable force for truth deserves to be celebrated more than ever before, especially in a time when disinformation and polarisation challenge our trust in information and institutions, while even causing serious harm, from sowing doubt in modern medicine to encouraging bias and inciting violence.
Happy 20th, Wiki
To commemorate two decades of its successful existence, Wikipedia is celebrating the power of human collaboration, creativity, and curiosity through its volunteers and supporters, who make Wikipedia possible.
Wiki’s birthday activities include a hackathon for journalism students to make Wikipedia and the internet a more gender-equal space. In addition, dedicated online workshops will be organised to educate participants on the basics of using the online encyclopaedia.
For the people, by the people
When Wikipedia began as an ambitious idea to create a free encyclopedia written by, well, unpaid volunteers, it seemed like an uphill battle.
However, over 20 years, the open-source content platform has become the largest collection of open knowledge in history. How did it happen? Short answer –– its tribe of impassioned volunteers, powered by tech.
Collaboration in Wikipedia articles has widely been touted as a great leap forward and an example of how technology can be leveraged to improve collaborative processes.
“Wikipedia is a global effort of volunteers who elevate knowledge and cooperation over conflict and self-interest. We are committed to preserving the integrity and value of information at a time when the world needs it most,” said Katherine Maher, CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Wikipedia is edited by over 280,000 volunteer editors every month around the world who work together to build each article, propose changes, and ensure that knowledge on Wikipedia is up-to-date and reliable. Their interests and backgrounds may vary, yet they come together on the platform to contribute and share their knowledge for the benefit of the world.
Vandalism addressed within 5 minutes
Often topping Google searches and the knowledge panels that appear at the top of those results, the site is now also a de facto fact-checking go-to. It is important therefore that any manipulated information is found and corrected.
Vandalism on the site is usually reverted within minutes, if not seconds. A lot of the site’s obvious vandalism is reverted automatically (and usually immediately) by an automated programme.
Select assessments of its reliability have examined how quickly vandalism, or content perceived by editors to constitute false or misleading information, is removed. An IBM study found that vandalism on the site was usually repaired extremely quickly—so quickly that most users never see its effects.
Wikipedia and India
Indian readers visit Wikipedia over 750 million times each month, making it the fifth highest number of views from any country. As of 2021, the platform is available in 24 Indian languages. Indian languages that have the most users - Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu - also have more than 60,000 articles each in their respective Wikipedia languages.
Interestingly, when Wikipedia put out a report about reader motivation on the site in 2017, it revealed that Hindi had the lowest motivation by media score (10 percent), while Bengali had the highest motivation by intrinsic learning.
The way forward
As it celebrates 20 years and looks to the future, Wikipedia acknowledges that there are deep knowledge gaps that must be addressed, particularly in inclusion and gender diversity.
“In a world where information is increasingly commoditised, Wikipedia’s model has always been based on the belief that knowledge belongs to all humans,” said Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales.
The Wikimedia movement’s 2030 strategic direction reflects this commitment. In addition, the Foundation recently developed a $4.5 million equity fund that will offer grants to advance more equitable, inclusive representation in Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai