Charles Arthur: The Geek

Will Wikipedia swallow Google?
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Wikipedia has just three essential tenets: its contributors carry out no original research (instead, they link to web or external sources); articles should be verifiable using trusted data; and written from a "neutral point of view".

Despite sounding like a recipe for absolute chaos, it has weathered the storms of criticism and come through with its reputation shining. From its inception in January 2001 it has grown to encompass more than 750,000 articles, but it has become much more important than just being a place where people organise facts. On pretty much any fact-based topic you'll find a link to Wikipedia. Often that page will have been built partly with the results from the Google search that pointed to it.

So will Wikipedia eat Google? That might sound unlikely, but there is one key differentiator between the two: Wikipedia, so far, is free from spam. Google by contrast is overrun with it, at least in certain areas.So how does Wikipedia keep the spam out? I don't know, but some trends are starting to emerge.

Overall, Wikipedia is becoming the online resource to resolve disputes; if another site is more authoritative on a topic, then Wikipedia links to that. Gradually, though, one can see the temptation for a cadre of full-time staff to begin searching for ways to improve the content.

As Wikipedia is a not-for-profit organisation and only employs three staff, the idea of its paying people to work on the content, when others do it for free, might seem fanciful. But then people thought once that nobody would pay for an operating system if you gave it away. Linux proved that wrong. Wikipedia isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing. And you're welcome to contribute.