Macworld crashed Twitter, today was also Wikipedia's seventh birthday. In the 7 years since Wikipedia was publicly launched on January 15, 2001, the online encyclopedia has put up some impressive numbers. The flagship English language version now has 2,174,371 articles (as I write this), is the 9th most popular site on the Internet (according to Alexa), and has spawned 6 side projects (Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, and Wikiversity).Besides being the day that
Wikipedia's projects span over 250 languages, with 9.4 million articles, 1.5 million images, and 10.3 million registered users (75,000 of whom are active contributors). All in the public domain.
WikiCharts, which keeps track of the top 100 Wikipedia pages in terms of page views (the main page gets 53 million of those per day), shows that the most popular thing Wikipedia does these days is define itself.
Wikipedia can also tell us things about pop culture, like that Harry Potter, Halo, and YouTube are more popular than sex (though sex related topics do seem to be very popular at Wikipedia -- who knew people used the Internet for that?). Or, if Wikipedia usage is a good indication of something's popularity, then it looks like JJ Abram's has a hit with his new film Cloverfield, which opens later this week -- the movie's Wikipedia entry has averaged 261,000 page views per day over the past two weeks.
Another fun Wikipedia tool to check out in honor of the site's birthday is Wikirage (which we reviewed in August). Wikirage keeps track of edits to determine the most popular (or most disputed) entries on the site. Not surprisingly, the most edited page today is that of the MacBook Air.
Of course, if the sheer size and scope of Wikipedia overwhelms you, one of the 250+ versions of the site can help: the Simple English Wikipedia. It sports 24,000 articles, each using a simplified version of the English language confined to 1500 English words.
Just compare the entries for Harry Potter in the full English Wikipedia:
"Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the eponymous adolescent wizard Harry Potter, together with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, his best friends. The story is mostly set at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, an academy for young wizards and witches. The central story arc concerns Harry's struggle against the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, who killed Harry's parents in his quest to conquer the wizarding world."
And the Simple English Wikipedia:
"The Harry Potter books are a popular series of fantasy books by J. K. Rowling. The character Harry Potter is the hero in the stories.
In the books, the fantasy is about magic. Harry Potter is born with the power to do magic. He soon discovers that there is a whole lot of magic people in the world, living unknown to most ordinary people. When he is eleven, he is invited to go to a boarding school for young witches and wizards. Each book tells about one year of his life at school, about the people that he meets there, the things that he learns, and his adventures."
That's more or less the entire entry -- the regular version cites 106 footnotes and carries on for over 7,000 words.
So, happy birthday to Wikipedia. Whether or not Wikiedia is as accurate as traditional encyclopedias, it is certainly more expedient than traditional texts (I'd like to see the day when Britannica has a detailed entry about a new computer product while it is still being announced), and for that reason it will remain a very useful online tool.