It's changed the way the internet works, and companies around the world are adopting similar mechanisms for their own use.I'd actually call that an understatement. The mass of information, its accuracy, the ease of access and the fact that it's available to nearly every corner of globe means it would be better described as an exponential leap forward for access to knowledge. I believe that with every child acquiring a laptop (not far into the future) it will have a major impact on education.
I was initially very sceptical and had my own rather dour estimates as to how slowly it would grow, how incomplete it would be, and how inaccurate it would be - "Why is anyone going to waste their time doing this?"
I was just plain wrong and massively so - except about the accuracy where there is controversy.
Here are some of the statistics I pulled from their home page:
Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites, attracting at least 684 million visitors yearly by 2008. There are more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages. As of today, there are 2,445,184 articles in English; every day hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to enhance the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia.And from their statistics sections:
At a rate of six hundred words a minute, twenty four hours a day, a person could read nearly twenty seven million words in a month. In the month of July 2006, Wikipedia grew by over thirty million words. In other words, a sleepless fast reader could never catch up with Wikipedia's new content. Reading the current incarnation at that rate would take over two years, and by the time they were done, so much would have changed with the parts they had already read that they would have to start over.
The English Wikipedia alone has over 1 billion words, over 25 times as many as the next largest English-language encyclopedia, Encyclopędia Britannica, and more than the enormous 119-volume Spanish-language Enciclopedia universal ilustrada europeo-americana.Aaron mentions "...pissing contests on terms where fans/critics or just people with disparate definitions would keep changing or deleting the material each other posted." And that is certainly the case. The severe bias that exists in areas of controversy is Wikipedia's major flaw.
I've grown to love Wikipedia and it is a permanant link in the top of my browser. But any, and I mean any subject that can generate controversy, that could even remotely support opposing factions will sometimes have awful information or be in a state of chaos. I always scan through the information on the discussion page for any article (click the "Discussion" tab at the top of an article).
For example, a long time back I found an article on "All Property is Theft" - I added a small criticism section at the bottom quoting from Branden's paper on the fallacy of the stolen concept. An edit war broke out between me and the Proudhon fans, and those who are antagonistic towards either Objectivism or Branden or to nearly any form of property rights. Finally a compromise was reached where they left the criticism section in, but added a paragraph of their own under the quote from Branden (saying why they didn't agree). It has been many months since that was all 'resolved'.
I went back a few minutes ago, and the article has evolved and the criticism section removed. And on the "Discussion" page someone explicitly stated that there shouldn't be any Objectivist point-of-view in the article. (I put it back in - it is never ending).
Always check the "Discussion" page (click the tab marked "Discussion" up near the top) - you can quickly scan the disagreements/comments and see if they represent major differences in position - or minor editing differences and it gives you a feel for the quality of the people at work on that article and their views.
-------- If you want a quick look at this particular page as an example, the links are below ----------------
The article (in whatever its current state) is here. On the Discussion page, you can see the little war on the criticism section if you scroll towards the bottom. And every single change to an article is kept in a database and can be accessed via the "History" tab (make sure you are on the "Article" itself, before you click "History" unless you want to look at the history of the discussion page).