Prior to 2001, gilded hard cover encyclopedias were cracked to fact check everything from raptor names to State capitals. Today the world’s most popular English encyclopedia is more often used to identify pop culture icons and social media companies. A recent Telegraph article listed the 50 most-viewed Wikipedia articles of 2008 and 2009 and while the results are slightly inaccurate, they’re pretty interesting. Below are this year’s most visited Wikipedia pages measured in hits per day.

1. Wiki (131,383 page hits per day): For both 2008 and 2009 the “Wiki” page and the Wikipedia page have maintained a spot in the top 10 visited pages. It’s fairly safe to say that the majority of visitors to these articles are looking for definitions, community information and editing tips.

2. The Beatles (111,896): In the Telegraph’s list for 2008, two different Beatles pages are listed as numbers 14 and 18 for 2008; however, according to the original Wikistics source statistics the “Beatles” page is ranked at number 20. In 2009, the page became the second most visited page on Wikipedia due to automated requests. The fact that the Fab Four’s catalogue is due to be re-released in digitally remastered format within the year also can’t hurt page traffic.

3. Michael Jackson (79,734): Not surprisingly, Michael Jackson’s page is among the most viewed pages on Wikipedia. The day after Jackson’s death the page received 5.9 million views. Of the top 10 most-viewed Wikipedia pages of 2009, Jackson’s name is also mentioned on the Deaths in 2009 page and briefly in the Beatles page due to his controversial purchase of most of the Lennon-McCartney Beatles catalog in 1985.

*Favicon.ico (78,077): While the Telegraph articles lists this as number 4, it’s irrelevant as the Wikistics stat source cites that the Favicon.ico ranking includes browser-based requests for the Wikipedia icon.

4. YouTube (72,318): Whether looking to cite corporate info or simply interested in finding out what the fuss is all about, Wikipedians have flocked to both YouTube and Facebook pages for the last two years.

5. Wikipedia (52,542)

6. Barack Obama (49,401): In 2008 the Barack Obama page was the 3rd most visited page on Wikipedia and not surprisingly, interest has dwindled post-election. Sarah Palin’s page (64,465) was the 4th most visited page in 2008 and John McCain’s page (34,486) was the 13th most visited page.

7. Deaths in 2009 (48,758): Apparently the public is clamoring to remember those they’ve lost in 2009. Both the Deaths in 2008 page and the 2009 page have made the top 10 list of most visited Wikipedia pages. It looks like memorial sites like My Death Space and Respectance aren’t such a strange idea after all.

8. United States (46,545): This page offers basic information on politics, economics, demographics and customs of the United States. With a large population and a large number of Wikipedians hailing from the US, the page is a popular one. Surprisingly it is not listed on the community’s most vandalized pages. Meanwhile both the US Democratic Party and Republican Party pages are listed.

9. Facebook (42,679)

10. Wikipedia Current Events Portal (40,962): This page lists daily news topics and the latest Wikinews articles. It is a great source for breaking news stories. The page also links to recent deaths and ongoing events such as the automotive industry crisis.

For the Telegraph’s entire list visit the article. You can also check them against Wikistics list of yearly page hits for 2008 and 2009.

Another interesting resource is Wikipedia’s most popular articles within the last hour. While recently deceased celebrities appeared on this list at the time this article was written, there were definitely some interesting anomalies. For instance, the Ernie Davis Wikipedia page saw a dramatic increase in hits. When cross-referenced against real time search engine Collecta it appears HBO was airing the Ernie Davis biography “The Express”. Audience members were simultaneously watching television while searching for Davis’ biography.