Speculation that Wikipedia has run out of ideas is an amusing headline. It’s hard to believe that in 8 years Wikipedia has more than 2.8 million English articles since the Encyclopedia Britannica started in 1768 and has about 250,000 articles. Wikipedia’s growth is quite astonishing since in March 2006 (three years ago) the 1 millionth English article milestone was reached! Today Wikipedia has more than 75,000 active contributors who write the articles in 260 languages with more than 684 million visitors a year. Because of Wikipedia’s dominating success, even Microsoft just announced it is withdrawing its encyclopedia Encarta (with 42,000 articles).

What’s a Wiki to Begin With?

As recently as yesterday an experienced business person asked what the heck a wiki was anyway. Wiki is Hawaiian for “quick,” and the wiki concept is part of the Internet web 2.0 (my 5th Big Bang of the Internet) for content collaboration.  IBM and Microsoft (and many other companies) have thousands of wikis they use for the development of new technologies. That is, developers on new projects use wikis as a tool to contribute ideas and edit content. These private wikis allow teams within companies to work together to solve problems, but a public wiki is different.

Wikimedia Is More than an Encyclopedia

Wikipedia is a 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit Internet encyclopedia and also has sister projects hosted through Wikimedia Foundation which includes among these services: Wikiquote (Collection of quotations), Wikispecies (Directory of species), Wikinews (Free-content news), Wikibooks (Free textbooks and manuals), Wikiversity (Free learning materials and activities), Wikitionary (Dicitionary and thesaurus), and Wikisource (Free-content library).

Wiki Legal Issues

Who owns wiki articles and the content makes is interesting. Clearly contributors to internal private company wikis expect the content owned by the companies. However if an employer fails to establish contractual terms with their employees about ownership, it becomes less clear about who owns the content in a wiki. On the other hand, when individuals post on public wikis such as Wikipedia they are contributing all intellectual property to the wiki (under the terms of service) and all Wikimedia materials are available under the GNU Free Documentation License (Open Source). To make things more interesting Wikipedia expressly disclaims the validity of it content. Yet millions of people around the world rely on Wikipedia as authority, when the articles are just a collaborative encyclopedia that may be changed or edited at any moment. As the Internet evolves clearly the sharing of information in wikis will continue to affect the future of information available.

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