Wikipedia founder signs up academics for rival site

The estranged founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written entirely by members of the public, is to launch a rival that he says is less likely to be riddled with errors.

Larry Sanger says that vast swaths of the anarchic encyclopaedia he helped create in 2001 are in desperate need of an editor – and that is what he is promising for his new project.

The launch of Citizendium.org, which begins testing in the next few days, is the latest chapter in the bitter public feud between Mr Sanger and Jimmy Wales, with whom he conceived Wikipedia in 2001. And it comes as Wikipedia is still reeling from the revelation of embarrassing errors and the activities of malicious hackers.

Mr Sanger has begun signing up academics furious at the mistakes and generalisations they find on Wikipedia's articles on their specialist subjects, and vowed to give these experts a special role to shape articles on Citizendium.org.

"This is merely a sensible community: one where the people who have made it their life's work to study certain areas are given a certain appropriate authority," Mr Sanger says. "Think of it as having village elders wandering the bazaar and occasionally dispensing advice and reining in the wayward."

The idea behind Wikipedia is that, by giving a billion internet users across the globe the chance to add, correct and improve articles, the project will approximate to the sum total of human knowledge. It has become one of the most successful internet phenomena and revolutionised access to information, with articles on over 5 million subjects, including 1.4 million in English.

But its detractors say that entries on complex topics are full of errors, interested parties will manipulate articles on contentious political topics, and the whole shebang is prone to vandalism by pranksters.

A first round of soul-searching was set off last year when US journalist John Seigenthaler complained that his Wikipedia entry implicated him in the assassination of President John Kennedy. A member of the public, Brian Chase, had inserted the claim "as a joke" to fool a colleague.

Then a Wikipedia investigation earlier this year found that Congressmen and their aides were doctoring their entries to flatter their records and to erase embarrassingly unfulfilled promises.

And public figures often have their profiles vandalised. Tony Blair was briefly given the job title "Bush's bitch boy" before the offending posting was reversed by Wikipedia's administrators and the organisation was forced to compromise its free-for-all principles. Public editing of Mr Blair's entry and that of President Bush is now disabled, with only registered members able to request changes.

Even the entry for Wikipedia itself has had to be closed off to public editors, and Mr Sanger's contains the disclaimer: "The neutrality of this article is disputed."

Messrs Sanger and Wales have been involved in a dispute over who should be credited with founding the Wikipedia community. Mr Wales, whose first online venture was an internet porn site, now highlights how Mr Sanger was in fact a hired help, employed to work on a professional online encyclopaedia called Nupedia. Wikipedia was first conceived as a way of quickly building up content for editing by Nupedia's experts – "wiki" is Hawaiian for quick – and Citizendium is Mr Sanger's return to that basic idea. His new site will begin as a copy of Wikipedia and then evolve.

Mr Sanger says Wikipedia itself is "dysfunctional" and he has heard from many academics who have gone out of their way to try to edit entries, "only essentially to be beaten back by the community".

Unlike Wikipedia, Citizendium will insist that members of the public making changes do so using their real names. It will throw out troublemakers and those who do not defer to expert editors.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness