What is Wikipedia?


Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia. The name is a portmanteau of the Hawaiian word for quick, "wiki", and "encyclopedia". Actively updated in over 100 languages, including constructed languages such as Esperanto, the English language Wikipedia contains over one and a half million articles.There are 11 other language editions with over 100,000 articles each, and over 50 languages with over 10,000 articles each. The lack of language barriers, and the fact that anybody with an Internet connection and a web browser can edit its contents, has Wikipedia termed as a "sum of public human knowledge." However, as in all fields of knowledge, there is much dispute over the accuracy of some information contained in Wikipedia. The encyclopedia therefore has resources dedicated the resolving such issues, and usually strives to publish all sides of any disputes.

Wikipedia was founded as an extension of the expert-written Nupedia project. However, the idea of a publicly-written collaborative encyclopedia was rejected by Nupedia's advisory board, and the project was managed independently by several top Nupedia contributors. Despite this, Wikipedia soon eclipsed Nupedia in terms of content and traffic. Within two years the Nupedia project was abandoned, and all its content was incorporated into Wikipedia. Much of today's Wikipedia staff are former Nupedia staff.

A very common criticism of Wikipedia is its inconsistent and unauthoritative submission model. The encyclopedia allows anybody to edit its pages, even anonymously. To address this issue, and to ensure quality, accurate content, all submissions and edits are moderated and regulated by a staff of regular volunteers. However, all information learned from Wikipedia should be independently verified by interested parties, and citing Wikipedia as a reference work is usually frowned upon in most academic circles. It should be noted that in 2005 the scientific publication Nature performed a comparison of the accuracy of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica, the leading print encyclopedia. It found that while the amount of errors per article in Wikipedia and Britannica were the same, the severity of errors in Wikipedia were worse. Encyclopedia Britannica suffered mostly from fact omission, whereas Wikipedia suffered from inaccurate information.

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