Wikipedia, 20th anniversary of its birth, is really “naive”

We love to call the magnificent ancient buildings such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramid of Khufu as a human miracle project, because in the eyes of people nowadays, in ancient times, such a large and ingenious building was built by humans only by moving bricks and tiles. An incredible thing.

In the future, AI editors will completely replace human typing hands. Internet content will be produced by super AIs that have passed the Turing test. Later generations may be amazed: the world’s largest encyclopedia-Wikipedia, is actually produced by millions of people. People from all over the world worked together to knock out.

Wikipedia has passed 20 years since its inception, and has so far contained 55 million articles and 189 languages. According to Alexa's ranking of global website views, Wikipedia is ranked 13th, much higher than Instagram.

At the same time, it is also one of the few non-profit companies on the list. Among the top 50, it is the only one that uses love to generate electricity.

Composed entirely of UGC content, it has been running for 20 years with a free and open concept. Wikipedia is a miracle project belonging to the Internet.

From pornographic sites to encyclopedias

The Internet Encyclopedia has undoubtedly become the cornerstone of the lives of Internet citizens. We have almost forgotten how we should satisfy our sudden thirst for knowledge before the birth of the Internet Encyclopedia.

▲ No one believed that Google could beat Yahoo

The emergence of the Internet gave the possibility of knowledge sharing. In the 1990s, how to classify and aggregate the endless knowledge on the Internet was the central issue of the industry. In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who were still mediocre at the time, founded the mediocre Google. They wanted to create an "Internet Yellow Pages" composed of algorithmic search to match the search that relied on manual cataloging at the time. The giant Yahoo competes.

At this time, Bomis, a start-up Internet portal in San Francisco, was greatly inspired. The founder Jimmy Wales thought he could build an open source version of Yahoo. Yahoo hired people to manually catalog classified websites, so that he could let users according to their own Summary of interests.

▲ Sure enough, "playing yellow" is the primary productivity of the Internet

It's a pity that this project quickly failed. Although some Jupiter fans collected information about Jupiter at the beginning, it was soon filled with female models or porn stars.

This is far from the original idea of ​​Jamie Welsh, but it is undeniable that this pornographic website earned the start-up funds for the encyclopedia of all mankind.

Not only that, Jamie Welsh also keenly captured that people actually have a strong thirst for knowledge when browsing the Internet. Now that he has experience in information integration, he has a bolder idea-why not create a free online book How about encyclopedia?

Driven by idealism, Nupedia, an online encyclopedia designed to challenge Encyclopedia Britannica, was formally founded in 1999. Unfortunately, after four years of operation, Nupedia fell on the road to challenge its predecessors.

▲ You can vaguely see what Wikipedia looks like

Clicking on the historical data saved by the Internet Archives, it is not difficult to understand why it will be replaced by Wikipedia: In order to ensure the authenticity of each entry, Nupedia needs to go through 7 rigorous steps to verify the article by experts, which leads to The publication speed of the article was unusually slow, and it didn't publish a total of 25 articles until it "dead".

"This is too difficult and too scary" Jimmy Wales said when talking about this old project. He believed that the primary responsibility of the encyclopedia should be to provide convenience to people, and then he planned to put this idea into another project. On the previous page, this also made his other identity more well known-the founder of Wikipedia.

Wiki Wiki, get up

We may all be exposed to Wiki technology for the first time on Wikipedia, but Wiki technology was born before Wikipedia.

In 1995, Cunningham, the father of Wikipedia, spent a few days creating a prototype of a technology that allowed computer programmers from all over the world to freely share computer code. Everyone is not only a reader, but also an author, and can dynamically collaborate with people on the other end of the Internet. This sounds like commonplace now, but in the bud period of the Internet, this idea is quite advanced.

Fast is the biggest feature of this new system. Cunningham wants to give this "fast network" a unique name. Cunningham felt that the Hawaiian word "Wee Kee", which stands for fast, was appropriate. Before choosing the pronunciation of "Wiki" as the name of the new system, he never thought that Wiki would take the world by storm in the future.

Who first proposed the application of Wiki technology to encyclopedias has been difficult to study. It is certain that Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, came up with the name of the new project: Wikipedia: Wiki Technology ( Wiki) plus Encyclopedia (Encyclopedia), the degree of innovation is no less than that of Lauri Niu Wan.

Wikipedia is completely open to users, allowing each user to freely add and edit entries. Under the new operating mode, the update speed of entries is much faster than Nupedia.

According to the team’s vision, Wikipedia may take 10 years to reach the scale of 80,000 entries in Encyclopedia Britannica. In fact, Wikipedia has exceeded 100,000 entries after 3 years, and is growing at an alarming rate. .

Jamie Welsh was running two projects at the same time for a period of time. With the help of enthusiastic volunteers, the number of entries on Wikipedia rose rapidly. Nupedia, which was reviewed by experts, announced its withdrawal from the stage of history after updating the 25th entry. .

Wikipedia continues to attract more volunteers to share knowledge to build this knowledge pyramid with its open source and free spirit, but it was a terrible terrorist attack that pushed it from a niche knowledge community to the public.

Freedom and authority

The sudden 9/11 attack hit the Americans by surprise. The overwhelming news dazzled people who had just woke up from their sleep. News reports, rumors, government announcements, fake news, and other information made people looking for the truth find it for a while. Farther north, Wikipedia provides a reliable information platform to meet this demand.

This is the first time Wikipedia has responded to social news outside of the encyclopedia, and it has given people who are eager to share the truth of the news a reliable platform. The attack gave Wikipedia a chance to reach the public, and the economic recession after the attack also allowed more people to devote time to the creation of the encyclopedia.

In an article by Wired, the content value of Wikipedia was estimated: "The authors of "Encyclopedia Britannica" earn an average of 50 cents per word. Calculated at the price of Encyclopedia Britannica, the production cost of the English version of Wikipedia is 1.75 billion US dollars." Although not accurate enough, it also reflects the influx of "UGC" content-user-created entry articles are the real wealth of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia’s reputation has reached a peak in recent years, because when social platforms and search engines are filled with all kinds of fake news, conspiracy theories, and commercial advertisements, Wikipedia has almost become the last piece of the Internet.

The content of Wikipedia is supervised by all users. Wiki-style creators who have different opinions share their opinions in the same article, allowing readers to analyze problems objectively and neutrally.

▲ World Health Organization (WHO) cooperates with Wikipedia

This kind of regulated objective discussion has become the authority of the Internet in a sense. Google has set up a separate display window for Wikipedia, so that readers can see a neutral overview for the first time when searching. During the Covid-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) also cooperated with Wikipedia to prevent the release of epidemic prevention information from being buried by false spam.

But in fact, this kind of wiki-style creation is free and uncontrollable.

▲ Penguin Publishing Group is a mainstream publisher in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and India.

On February 1, 2007, inspired by Wikipedia, the British Penguin Publishing Group and De Montfort University jointly created a joint creation project called "Million Penguins", which aims to challenge existing literary creation methods.

Million Penguins gave the layout of the story and the background of the characters. Each reader can create 250 words of content and create Solitaire in the form of a Wiki community. However, once the project is started, it becomes uncontrollable like a wild horse.

Wiki-style rules mean that each reader can freely delete the content of the story. After a lot of meticulous creation, many authors will see that the original content has been deleted and changed the next day. What's more, the story content has appeared a lot The foul language and drug-taking scenes, this experimental novel creation project finally announced on March 7th that it would no longer accept changes from netizens.

The Million Penguin is like a stone thrown at the Internet. Its final content sank to the bottom of the river and was forgotten, but it succeeded in arousing a splash that can be remembered-free wiki-style creation means There is a risk of "being destroyed by freedom."

Similar vandalism is performed on Wikipedia every day. Wanton falsification of information, even using Wikipedia for commercial advertising, there are many people with ulterior motives wanting to alter it on a public encyclopedia around the world.

In 2019, an advertiser of The North Face thought of a "ghost" idea to increase brand exposure: it sent a professional photography team to popular attractions to take landscape photos, focusing on its own brand products, and by modifying these attractions The Wikipedia entry pictures of, can let everyone who searches for attractions see their products.

After the deeds failed, the advertiser hurriedly changed his narrative that it was a joint operation with Wikipedia. Wikipedia also gave a rather ironic reply to this statement; "If the purpose of a joint operation is to avoid being The subject of the joint name found that there is no doubt that this was a failed joint name."

In addition to being used as a billboard, due to the invisible authority of Wikipedia, it has become commonplace to be maliciously tampered with as hoaxes, election props, etc. Fortunately, Wikipedia is not a paper that can be revised 5 years after its release. Publications, from discovering these errors to correcting them, may take less than 10 minutes. Constant revisions and updates also allow this subconscious authority to be maintained.

It is the daily work of Wikipedia's volunteer editors (they prefer to call themselves Wikimen) to continuously publish new entries and find "bugs". No one can guarantee that the content they publish is absolutely objective and correct. Wikimen are keen on Constantly find errors and make corrections. As Cunningham said: "The best way to get a correct answer on the Internet is to post a wrong answer." The work of wikis does not bring them material rewards. What they pursue is to share the "correct Sense of accomplishment when

The common interest attracts this group of wikis to the same community. Wikipedia has set up many interesting rules to prevent this knowledge community from becoming "smoke" like a social platform, such as repeatedly emphasizing the etiquette of speaking and setting up "Wiki Inn" The discussion forum of to help novices solve problems, set up a "cleaning team" to deal with uncomfortable words in the encyclopedia, etc. What's interesting is that these rules are usually produced by "UGC"-established by community discussions, rather than dead orders under Wikipedia.

▲ It is more inclined to tell you what it is not than “what is Wikipedia''

What is certain is that despite so many defensive measures, Wikipedia is still not so reliable. Wikipedia officials have also always urged users not to use Wikipedia as an absolutely credible source of information, although the probability of fake news appearing here is much smaller compared to other platforms.

A website full of human nature

Wikipedia has more than 20 billion page views every month. Interestingly, this did not make Jamie Wales a billionaire.

The Wikimedia Foundation stated that Wikipedia has not considered – nor will it consider inserting advertisements on the website to seek profit. At present, most of Wikipedia's income comes from donations from users, and part of it comes from donations from other Internet companies – as a "cooperation ""'S polite response.

Of course, these cooperations are all non-profit activities. The voice assistants of Apple and Amazon rely on Wikipedia to answer users’ questions. Facebook and Google use Wikipedia to train AI language models. Because of open source and free of charge, Wikipedia may appear in every part of the Internet. corner.

The non-profit structure makes Wikipedia look like a "heterogeneous" among this group of Internet giants, which makes it unnecessary to consider the various needs of advertisers and only need to focus on the interests of readers and editors.

Compared with the considerable economic benefits, Wikipedia has chosen to maintain utopian ideals such as accuracy, fairness, and friendly discussion. The Economist’s report on Wikipedia once described it as "a website full of human nature." , It’s more people running than algorithms.”

Donations from all over the world are the greatest force supporting these ideals. According to the financial report data released by the Wikimedia Foundation, a total of 124,131,047 US dollars (approximately 124 million US dollars) was collected through fundraising during 2019-2020, an increase of 20% compared to last year.

The Wikimedia Foundation also announced to the fundraiser the whereabouts of each fund: 43% for website construction and maintenance, 32% for volunteer support, 13% for administrative expenditure, and 12% for Fundraising activities and more. "The world needs Wikipedia, and Wikipedia needs you." To stick to the not-for-profit philosophy, Wikipedia must be humble to users and spend every penny.

However, the 20-year-old Wikipedia still faces many problems waiting for it to solve, such as the major changes in the Internet environment and the gender imbalance of editors.

The proliferation of mobile smart devices such as mobile phones has shifted the Internet from the desktop to the palm. Katherine Maher, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, said that Wikipedia needs to adapt to the mobile Internet environment, such as more Convenient query and browsing, better mobile editing experience, etc.

At the same time, she pointed out that balancing the current disparity in editing gender ratio is also one of the challenges of Wikipedia. According to statistics, the male to female ratio of Wikipedia's volunteer editors is about 9:1, which makes the status of female editors and content on female topics in a relatively weak position.

▲ Georgia O'Keeffe classic flower series

For example, Georgia O’Keeffe, known as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, has entries on Wikipedia that are less than half the length of Master Yoda in Star Wars. It is not difficult to compare the quality and quantity of these entries. The encyclopedia that belongs to all mankind still needs to be filled.

In general, the Wikipedia story has a lot of positive content, and there are also a lot of black history that cannot be looked back on. What is interesting is that these are objectively recorded by Wikipedia in their own encyclopedia. It is this obsession with objectivity that makes Brewster Keller, the founder of the Internet Archive, describe it as "the treasure of the Internet."

The sci-fi writer Douglas Adams who created "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" once said that the setting of this book-a manual that can be created by anyone is ridiculous, but what he did not expect is that in the near future, this is ridiculous The idea has become an indispensable cornerstone of the modern Internet.

The logo of this cornerstone is very interesting. It is a spherical symbol composed of various characters, most of which are the pronunciation of the letter W or Wi. This is related to its utopian vision: let everyone in the world share all knowledge. This sounds a bit "naive", but Wikipedia has been working hard for 20 years and intends to continue.

Higher and higher

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