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Wikipedia is an online free-content encyclopedia project that aims to help create a world in which every single human can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. It is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation and based on a model of openly editable content. The name "Wikipedia" is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning "quick") and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's articles provide links designed to guide the user to related pages with additional information.

Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteers who write without pay. Anyone with internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles, except in limited cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism.

Since its creation on January 15, 2001, Wikipedia has grown into the world's largest reference website, attracting 1.5 billion unique visitors monthly as of March 2020. It currently has more than 53 million articles in more than 300 languages, including 6,089,304 articles in English with 147,572 active contributors in the past month.

The fundamental principles by which Wikipedia operates are the five pillars. The Wikipedia community has developed many policies and guidelines to improve the encyclopedia; however, it is not a formal requirement to be familiar with them before contributing.

Anyone is allowed to add or edit words, references, images and other media here. What is contributed is more important than the expertise or qualifications of the contributor. To remain, the content must be free of copyright restrictions and contentious material about living people. It must fit within Wikipedia's policies, including being verifiable against a published reliable source. Editors' opinions and beliefs and unreviewed research will not remain. Contributions cannot damage Wikipedia because the software allows easy reversal of mistakes and many experienced editors are watching to ensure that edits are improvements. Begin by simply clicking the Edit button at the top of any editable page!

Wikipedia is a live collaboration differing from paper-based reference sources in important ways. Unlike printed encyclopedias, Wikipedia is continually created and updated, with articles on historic events appearing within minutes, rather than months or years. Because everybody can help improve it, Wikipedia has become more comprehensive than any other encyclopedia. In addition to quantity, its contributors work on improving quality as well. Wikipedia is a work-in-progress, with articles in various stages of completion. As articles develop, they tend to become more comprehensive and balanced. Quality also improves over time as misinformation and other errors are removed or repaired. However, because anyone can click "edit" at any time and add content, any article may contain undetected misinformation, errors, or vandalism. Awareness of this helps the reader to obtain valid information, avoid recently added misinformation (see Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia), and fix the article.

About Wikipedia

Wikipedia history

The English edition of Wikipedia has grown to 6,089,304 articles, equivalent to around 2,700 print volumes of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Including all language editions, Wikipedia has 53,436,705 articles, equivalent to around 20,000 print volumes.[1]

Wikipedia was founded as an offshoot of Nupedia, a now-abandoned project to produce a free encyclopedia, begun by the online media company Bomis. Nupedia had an elaborate system of peer review and required highly qualified contributors, but the writing of articles was slow. During 2000, Jimmy Wales (founder of Nupedia and co-founder of Bomis), and Larry Sanger, whom Wales had employed to work on the encyclopedia project, discussed ways of supplementing Nupedia with a more open, complementary project. Multiple sources suggested that a wiki might allow members of the public to contribute material, and Nupedia's first wiki went online on January 10, 2001.

There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a website in the wiki format, so the new project was given the name "Wikipedia" and launched on its own domain, wikipedia.com, on January 15 (now called "Wikipedia Day" by some users). The bandwidth and server (in San Diego) were donated by Wales. Other current and past Bomis employees who have worked on the project include Tim Shell, one of the cofounders of Bomis and its current CEO, and programmer Jason Richey.

In May 2001, a large number of non-English Wikipedias were launched—in Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. These were soon joined by Arabic and Hungarian. In September,[2] Polish was added, and further commitment to the multilingual provision of Wikipedia was made. At the end of the year, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Serbo-Croatian versions were announced.

The domain was eventually changed to the present wikipedia.org when the not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation was launched, in 2003, as its new parent organization, with the ".org" top-level domain denoting its non-commercial nature. Today, there are Wikipedias in more than 300 languages.

Wikipedia contributors

Wikipedia contributors

Anyone with Web access can edit Wikipedia, and this openness encourages inclusion of a tremendous amount of content. About 150,000 editors—from expert scholars to casual readers—regularly edit Wikipedia, and these experienced editors often help to create a consistent style throughout the encyclopedia, following our Manual of Style.

Several mechanisms are in place to help Wikipedia members carry out the important work of crafting a high-quality resource while maintaining civility. Editors are able to watch pages and technically skilled persons can write editing programs to keep track of or rectify bad edits. Where there are disagreements on how to display facts, editors often work together to compile an article that fairly represents current expert opinion on the subject. Aspiring authors may wish to read the information on Contributing to Wikipedia before contributing to the project.

Although the Wikimedia Foundation owns the site, it is largely uninvolved in writing and daily operations.

Trademarks and copyrights

"Wikipedia" is a registered trademark of the not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which has created a family of free-content projects that are built by user contributions.

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are dual-licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts). Some text has been imported only under CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-SA-compatible license and cannot be reused under GFDL; such text is identified either on the page footer, in the page history or on the discussion page of the article that utilizes the text. Every image has a description page that indicates the license under which it is released or, if it is non-free, the rationale under which it is used.

Contributions remain the property of their creators, while the CC-BY-SA and GFDL licenses ensure the content is freely distributable and reproducible. (See content disclaimer for more information.)

Credits

Text on Wikipedia is a collaborative work, and the efforts of individual contributors to a page are recorded in that page's history, which is publicly viewable. Information on the authorship of images and other media, such as sound files, can be found by clicking on the image itself or the nearby information icon to display the file page, which includes the author and source, where appropriate, along with other information.

Making the best use of Wikipedia

Exploring Wikipedia

Many visitors come to Wikipedia to acquire knowledge, while others come to share knowledge. At this very instant, dozens of articles are being improved, and new articles are also being created. Changes can be viewed at the Recent changes page and a random page at random articles. 5,775 articles have been designated by the Wikipedia community as featured articles, exemplifying the best articles in the encyclopedia. Another 31,829 articles are designated as good articles. Some information on Wikipedia is organized into lists; the best of these are designated as featured lists. Wikipedia also has portals, which organize content around topic areas. Articles can be found using the search box on the top-right side of the screen.

Wikipedia is available in languages other than English. Wikipedia has more than 300 languages, including a Simple English version, and related projects include a dictionary, quotations, books, manuals, and scientific reference sources, and a news service (see sister projects). All these are maintained, updated, and managed by separate communities, and often include information and articles that can be hard to find through other common sources.

Basic navigation in Wikipedia

Wikipedia articles are all linked, or cross-referenced. When highlighted text like this is seen, it means there is a link to some relevant article or Wikipedia page with further in-depth information. Holding the mouse over the link will often show to where the link will lead. There are other links towards the ends of most articles, for other articles of interest, relevant external websites and pages, reference material, and organized categories of knowledge which can be searched and traversed in a loose hierarchy for more information. Some articles may also have links to dictionary definitions, audio-book readings, quotations, the same article in other languages, and further information available on our sister projects. Additional links can be easily made if a relevant link is missing—this is one simple way to contribute.

Using Wikipedia as a research tool

What's a love dart? Wikipedia can help you find out! (2:13 min)

As wiki documents, articles are never considered complete and may be continually edited and improved. Over time, this generally results in an upward trend of quality and a growing consensus over a neutral representation of information.

Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start: they may contain false or debatable information. Indeed, many articles start their lives as displaying a single viewpoint; and, after a long process of discussion, debate, and argumentation, they gradually take on a neutral point of view reached through consensus. Others may, for a while, become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint which can take some time—months or years perhaps—to achieve a better balanced coverage of their subject. In part, this is because editors often contribute content in which they have a particular interest and do not attempt to make each article they edit comprehensive. However, eventually, additional editors expand and contribute to articles and strive to achieve balance and comprehensive coverage. In addition, Wikipedia operates a number of internal resolution processes that can assist when editors disagree on content and approach. Usually, editors eventually reach a consensus on ways to improve the article.

External video
"Using Wikipedia" with John Green, from Crash Course's Navigating Digital Information series, YouTube video

The ideal Wikipedia article is well written, balanced, neutral, and encyclopedic, containing comprehensive, notable, verifiable knowledge. An increasing number of articles reach this standard over time, and many already have. Our best articles are called Featured Articles (and display a small star in the upper right corner of the article), and our second best tier of articles are designated Good Articles. However, this is a process and can take months or years to be achieved through the concerted effort of editors. Some articles contain statements which have not yet been fully cited. Others will later be augmented with new sections. Some information will be considered by later contributors to be insufficiently founded and, therefore, may be removed.

While the overall trend is toward improvement, it is important to use Wikipedia carefully if it is intended to be used as a research source, since individual articles will, by their nature, vary in quality and maturity. Guidelines and information pages are available to help users and researchers do this effectively, as is an article that summarizes third-party studies and assessments of the reliability of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia vs paper encyclopedias

Main page: Wikipedia is not paper (on Wikimedia Meta-Wiki).

Wikipedia has advantages over traditional paper encyclopedias. First, it is not limited in space: it can keep growing as fast as people add to it.

Second, there are no qualifications required to be able to author its articles. Therefore, it has a very large pool of contributors: the whole world. This, and the first advantage mentioned above, have enabled Wikipedia to become the most comprehensive encyclopedia on Earth.

Third, a paper encyclopedia remains static (stays the same) and falls out of date until the next edition. But Wikipedia is dynamic: you don't have to wait for the next edition to come out (there are no editions), as Wikipedia is published on-line as it is written on-line. Articles are made available as is, regardless of what stage of development they are in. You can update Wikipedia at any instant, and people do so continually around the clock, thereby helping each other to keep abreast of the most recent events everywhere and of the latest facts in every subject.

Fourth, Wikipedia has a very low "publishing" cost for adding or expanding entries, as it is on-line, with no need to buy paper or ink for distribution. This has allowed it to be made available for free, making it more accessible to everyone. This has enabled Wikipedia to be independently developed and published in many different languages at the same time, by people literate in each language. Of the 290+ different language Wikipedias, 137 of them have 10,000 or more articles.

Fifth, Wikipedia has a low environmental impact in some respects, since it never needs to be printed, although computers have their own environmental cost.

Sixth, Wikipedia is extra-linear (more than linear). Instead of in-line explanations, Wikipedia incorporates hypertext in the form of wikilinks. Throughout its content is a robust network of links, providing another dimension of knowledge accessibility. The encyclopedia also has correlates to tables of contents and indexes, with each entry in them hyperlinked to an article on the topic specified.

Seventh, each Wikipedia article provides an introduction summarizing the more extensive detail of its contents.

Eighth, being open to anyone to edit, articles on Wikipedia are subject to additions that might be erroneous or written poorly, which in turn are subject to being corrected or rewritten. It is a community effort, with most people who are involved helping to improve the work, fixing problems they encounter along the way. See more about Wikipedia's strengths and weaknesses, below ...

Strengths, weaknesses, and article quality

Wikipedia's greatest strengths, weaknesses, and differences all arise because it is open to anyone, it has a large contributor base, and its articles are written by consensus, according to editorial guidelines and policies.

  • Wikipedia is open to a large contributor base, drawing a large number of editors from diverse backgrounds. This allows Wikipedia to significantly reduce regional and cultural bias found in many publications, and makes it very difficult for any person or group to censor and impose bias. A large, diverse editor base also provides access and breadth on subject matter that is otherwise inaccessible or poorly documented. A large number of editors contributing at any moment can produce encyclopedic articles and resources covering newsworthy events within hours or days of their occurrence. Like any publication, Wikipedia may reflect the cultural, age, socio-economic, and other biases of its contributors. There is no systematic process to make sure "obviously important" topics are written about, so Wikipedia may suffer unexpected oversights and omissions. While most articles may be altered by anyone, in practice editing will be performed by a certain demographic (younger rather than older, male rather than female, literate, rich enough to afford a computer, et cetera) and may, therefore, show some bias. Some topics may not be covered well, others in great depth.
  • Allowing anyone to edit Wikipedia makes it easily vandalized and susceptible to unverifed information, which requires removal. See Wikipedia:Administrator intervention against vandalism. While blatant vandalism is usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, Wikipedia is more subject to subtle viewpoint promotion than a typical reference work. However, bias that would be unchallenged in a traditional reference work is likely to be eventually challenged or considered on Wikipedia. While Wikipedia articles generally attain a good standard after editing, it is important to note that fledgling articles and those monitored less well may be susceptible to vandalism and insertion of false information. Wikipedia's radical openness also means any given article may be, at any given moment, in a bad state, such as in the middle of a large edit, or a controversial rewrite. Many contributors do not yet comply fully with key policies, or may add information without citable sources. Wikipedia's open approach tremendously increases the chances that any particular factual error or misleading statement will be relatively promptly corrected. Numerous editors at any given time are monitoring recent changes and edits to articles on their watchlists.
  • Wikipedia is written by open and transparent consensus—an approach that has its pros and cons. Censorship or imposing "official" points of view is extremely difficult to achieve and usually fails after a time. Eventually for most articles, all notable views become fairly described and a neutral point of view reached. In reality, the process of reaching consensus may be long and drawn-out, with articles fluid or changeable for a long time while they find their "neutral approach" that all sides can agree on. Reaching neutrality is occasionally made harder by extreme-viewpoint contributors. Wikipedia operates a full editorial dispute resolution process, one that allows time for discussion and resolution in depth, but one that also permits disagreements to last for months before poor-quality or biased edits are removed. A common conclusion is that Wikipedia is a valuable resource and provides a good reference point on its subjects.
  • That said, articles and subject areas sometimes suffer from significant omissions, and while misinformation and vandalism are usually corrected quickly, this does not always happen. (See for example this incident in which a person inserted a fake biography linking a prominent journalist to the Kennedy assassinations and Soviet Russia as a joke on a co-worker which went undetected for four months, saying afterwards he "didn't know Wikipedia was used as a serious reference tool".)
  • Wikipedia is written largely by amateurs. Those with expert credentials are given no additional weight. Wikipedia is also not subject to any peer review for scientific, medical or engineering articles. One advantage to having amateurs write in Wikipedia is that they have more free time on their hands so they can make rapid changes in response to current events. The wider the general public interest in a topic, the more likely it is to attract contributions from non-specialists.

The MediaWiki software that runs Wikipedia retains a history of all edits and changes, thus information added to Wikipedia never "vanishes" irreversibly. Discussion pages are an important resource on contentious topics. Therefore, serious researchers can often find a wide range of vigorously or thoughtfully advocated viewpoints not present in the consensus article. As with any source, information should be checked. A 2005 editorial by a BBC technology writer comments that these debates are probably symptomatic of cultural changes that are happening across all sources of information (including search engines and the media), and may lead to "a better sense of how to evaluate information sources".[3]

Disclaimers

Wikipedia disclaimers apply to all pages on Wikipedia. However, the consensus in Wikipedia is to put all disclaimers only as links and at the end of each article. Proposals to have a warning box at the beginning have been rejected. Some do not like the way it looks or that it calls attention to possible errors in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, in common with many websites, has a disclaimer that, at times, has led to commentators citing these in order to support a view that Wikipedia is unreliable. A selection of similar disclaimers from places which are often regarded as reliable (including sources such as Encyclopædia Britannica, Associated Press, and the Oxford English Dictionary) can be read and compared at Wikipedia:Non-Wikipedia disclaimers.

Contributing to Wikipedia

A downloadable "Editing Wikipedia guide" in PDF form written by the staff at the Wikimedia Foundation
Go ahead and be bold — click the edit button! (1:06 min)

Anyone can contribute to Wikipedia by clicking on the Edit tab in an article, and editors are encouraged to be bold. To get started, the intro tutorial has helpful advice. Also, creating an account offers many benefits. Editors are expected to add only verifiable and factual information rather than personal views and opinions, and to remain civil when discussing issues. Vandals will have their edits reverted and be blocked from editing.

Most articles start as stubs, but after many contributions, they can become featured articles. All editors are unpaid volunteers, including administrators, trusted editors who are given elevated permissions. The ease of editing Wikipedia results in many people editing. That makes the updating of the encyclopedia very quick. Every page has an associated talk page tab, where improvements to it are discussed.

Editorial quality review

Video guided tour #2: Why does Wikipedia work even though anyone can edit it?

As well as systems to catch and control substandard and vandalistic edits, Wikipedia also has a full style and content manual and a variety of positive systems for continual article review and improvement. Examples of the processes include peer review, good article assessment, and the featured article process, a rigorous review of articles that are intended to meet the highest standards and showcase Wikipedia's capability to produce high-quality work.

In addition, specific types of article or fields often have their own specialized and comprehensive projects, assessment processes (such as biographical article assessment), and expert reviewers within specific subjects. Nominated articles are also frequently the subject of specific focus on the neutral point of view noticeboard or in WikiProject Cleanup.

Technical attributes

Wikipedia uses MediaWiki software, the open-source program used not only on Wikimedia projects but also on many other third-party websites. The hardware supporting the Wikimedia projects is based on several hundred servers in various hosting centers around the world. Full descriptions of these servers and their roles are available on this Meta-Wiki page. For technical information about Wikipedia, check Technical FAQ. Wikipedia publishes various types of metadata; and, across its pages, are many thousands of microformats.

Feedback and questions

Wikipedia is run as a communal effort. It is a community project whose result is an encyclopedia. Feedback about content should, in the first instance, be raised on the discussion pages of those articles. Be bold and edit the pages to add information or correct mistakes.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Static help

The Help:Contents may be accessed by clicking help displayed under the  Interaction tab at the top left of all pages.

  • Help:Menu—is a menu-style page that will direct you to the right place to find information.
  • Help:Directory—is a descriptive listing of all Wikipedia's informative, instructional and consultation pages.

Giving feedback

There is an established escalation-and-dispute process within Wikipedia, as well as pages designed for questions, feedback, suggestions, and comments. For a full listing of the services and assistance that can be requested on Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Request directory.

See also:

Research help and similar questions

Facilities to help users researching specific topics can be found at:

Because of the nature of Wikipedia, it is encouraged that people looking for information should try to find it themselves in the first instance. If, however, information is found to be missing from Wikipedia, be bold and add it so others can gain.

Community discussion

For a listing of ongoing discussions and current requests, see the dashboard. For specific discussion not related to article content or editor conduct, see the Village pump, which covers such subjects as milestone announcements, policy and technical discussion, and information on other specialized portals such as the help, reference and peer review desks. The Community portal is a centralized place to find things to do, collaborations, and general editing help information, and find out what is happening. The Signpost, a community-edited newspaper, has recent news regarding Wikipedia, its sister projects, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Contacting individual Wikipedia editors

To contact individual contributors, leave a message on their talk page. Standard places to ask policy and project-related questions are the Village pump, online, and the Wikipedia mailing lists, over e-mail. Reach other Wikipedians via IRC and e-mail.

In addition, the Wikimedia Foundation Meta-Wiki is a site for coordinating the various Wikipedia projects and sister projects (and abstract discussions of policy and direction). Also available are places for submitting bug reports and feature requests.

For a full list of contact options, see Wikipedia:Questions.

Other languages

Sister projects

Wikipedia is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that also hosts a range of other projects:

Please note that while other sites may also use MediaWiki software and therefore look like Wikipedia [dot org]—"wiki-" or "-pedia" or anything similar—the only projects which are part of the Wikimedia Foundation are those listed above.

See also

Information icon.svg Help desk

References

  1. ^ "Wikistats - Statistics For Wikimedia Projects". stats.wikimedia.org. Wikimedia Foundation. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Milestones 2001". Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org.
  3. ^ Bill Thompson, "What is it with Wikipedia?" BBC, December 16, 2005.

Further reading

External links