An Introduction



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Cultural significance


In addition to logistic growth in the number of its articles,[150] Wikipedia has steadily gained status as a general reference website since its inception in 2001.[151] According to Alexa and comScore, Wikipedia is among the ten most visited websites worldwide.[10][152] Of the top ten, Wikipedia is the only non-profit website. The growth of Wikipedia has been fueled by its dominant position in Google search results;[153] about 50% of search engine traffic to Wikipedia comes from Google,[154] a good portion of which is related to academic research.[155] In April 2007 the Pew Internet and American Life project found that one third of US Internet users consulted Wikipedia.[156] In October 2006, the site was estimated to have a hypothetical market value of $580 million if it ran advertisements.[157]


Wikipedia's content has also been used in academic studies, books, conferences, and court cases.[158][159][160] The Parliament of Canada's website refers to Wikipedia's article on same-sex marriage in the "related links" section of its "further reading" list for the Civil Marriage Act.[161] The encyclopedia's assertions are increasingly used as a source by organizations such as the U.S. Federal Courts and the World Intellectual Property Organization[162] – though mainly for supporting information rather than information decisive to a case.[163] Content appearing on Wikipedia has also been cited as a source and referenced in some U.S. intelligence agency reports.[164] In December 2008, the scientific journal RNA Biology launched a new section for descriptions of families of RNA molecules and requires authors who contribute to the section to also submit a draft article on the RNA family for publication in Wikipedia.[165]
The Onion newspaper headline "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence"Wikipedia has also been used as a source in journalism,[166] sometimes without attribution, and several reporters have been dismissed for plagiarizing from Wikipedia.[167][168][169] In July 2007, Wikipedia was the focus of a 30-minute documentary on BBC Radio 4[170] which argued that, with increased usage and awareness, the number of references to Wikipedia in popular culture is such that the term is one of a select band of 21st-century nouns that are so familiar (Google, Facebook, YouTube) that they no longer need explanation and are on a par with such 20th-century terms as Hoovering or Coca-Cola. Many parody Wikipedia's openness, with characters vandalizing or modifying the online encyclopedia project's articles. Notably, comedian Stephen Colbert has parodied or referenced Wikipedia on numerous episodes of his show The Colbert Report and coined the related term "wikiality".[58]
The site has created an impact upon several forms of media. Some media sources satirize Wikipedia's susceptibility to inserted inaccuracies, such as a front-page article in The Onion in July 2006 with the title "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years of American Independence".[171] Others may draw upon Wikipedia's statement that anyone can edit, such as "The Negotiation," an episode of The Office, where character Michael Scott said that "Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information". Other media sources parody Wikipedia's policies, such as the xkcd strip named "Wikipedian Protester."
An xkcd strip titled "Wikipedian Protester"Dutch filmmaker IJsbrand van Veelen premiered his 45-minute television documentary The Truth According to Wikipedia in April, 2008.[172] Another documentary film about Wikipedia, titled Truth in Numbers: The Wikipedia Story, is scheduled for a 2009 release. Shot on several continents, the film will cover the history of Wikipedia and feature interviews with Wikipedia editors around the world.[173][174]
On September 28, 2007, Italian politician Franco Grillini raised a parliamentary question with the Minister of Cultural Resources and Activities about the necessity of freedom of panorama. He said that the lack of such freedom forced Wikipedia, "the seventh most consulted website" to forbid all images of modern Italian buildings and art, and claimed this was hugely damaging to tourist revenues.[175]
Jimmy Wales receiving the Quadriga A Mission of Enlightenment awardOn September 16, 2007, The Washington Post reported that Wikipedia had become a focal point in the 2008 U.S. election campaign, saying, "Type a candidate's name into Google, and among the first results is a Wikipedia page, making those entries arguably as important as any ad in defining a candidate. Already, the presidential entries are being edited, dissected and debated countless times each day."[176] An October 2007 Reuters article, titled "Wikipedia page the latest status symbol", reported the recent phenomenon of how having a Wikipedia article vindicates one's notability.[177]
Wikipedia won two major awards in May 2004.[178] The first was a Golden Nica for Digital Communities of the annual Prix Ars Electronica contest; this came with a €10,000 (£6,588; $12,700) grant and an invitation to present at the PAE Cyberarts Festival in Austria later that year. The second was a Judges' Webby Award for the "community" category.[179] Wikipedia was also nominated for a "Best Practices" Webby. On January 26, 2007, Wikipedia was also awarded the fourth highest brand ranking by the readers of brandchannel.com, receiving 15% of the votes in answer to the question "Which brand had the most impact on our lives in 2006?"
In September 2008, Wikipedia received Quadriga A Mission of Enlightenment award of Werkstatt Deutschland along with Boris Tadić, Eckart Höfling, and Peter Gabriel. The award was presented to Jimmy Wales by David Weinberger.[181]
In July 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a comedy series called Bigipedia, which was set on a website which was a parody of Wikipedia. Some of the sketches were directly inspired by Wikipedia and its articles.[182]

Related projects

Find more about Wikipedia on Wikipedia's sister projects:

 Definitions from Wiktionary

 Textbooks from Wikibooks

 Quotations from Wikiquote

 Source texts from Wikisource

 Images and media from Commons

 News stories from Wikinews

 Learning resources from Wikiversity

A number of interactive multimedia encyclopedias incorporating entries written by the public existed long before Wikipedia was founded. The first of these was the 1986 BBC Domesday Project, which included text (entered on BBC Micro computers) and photographs from over 1 million contributors in the UK, and covering the geography, art, and culture of the UK. This was the first interactive multimedia encyclopedia (and was also the first major multimedia document connected through internal links), with the majority of articles being accessible through an interactive map of the UK. The user-interface and part of the content of the Domesday Project have now been emulated on a website. One of the most successful early online encyclopedias incorporating entries by the public was h2g2, which was created by Douglas Adams and is run by the BBC. The h2g2 encyclopedia was relatively light-hearted, focusing on articles which were both witty and informative. Both of these projects had similarities with Wikipedia, but neither gave full editorial freedom to public users. A similar non-wiki project, the GNUPedia project, co-existed with Nupedia early in its history; however, it has been retired and its creator, free software figure Richard Stallman, has lent his support to Wikipedia.


Wikipedia has also spawned several sister projects, which are also run by the Wikimedia Foundation. The first, "In Memoriam: September 11 Wiki", created in October 2002,[185] detailed the September 11 attacks; this project was closed in October 2006. Wiktionary, a dictionary project, was launched in December 2002;[186] Wikiquote, a collection of quotations, a week after Wikimedia launched, and Wikibooks, a collection of collaboratively written free books. Wikimedia has since started a number of other projects, including Wikiversity, a project for the creation of free learning materials and the provision of online learning activities.[187] None of these sister projects, however, has come to meet the success of Wikipedia.
Some subsets of Wikipedia's information have been developed, often with additional review for specific purposes. For example, Wikipedia for Schools, the Wikipedia series of CDs/DVDs, produced by Wikipedians and SOS Children, is a free, hand-checked, non-commercial selection from Wikipedia targeted around the UK National Curriculum and intended to be useful for much of the English speaking world.[188] The project is available online; an equivalent print encyclopedia would require roughly twenty volumes. There has also been a attempt to put a select subset of Wikipedia's articles into printed book form.[189][190]
Other websites centered on collaborative knowledge base development have drawn inspiration from or inspired Wikipedia. Some, such as Susning.nu, Enciclopedia Libre, and WikiZnanie likewise employ no formal review process, whereas others use more traditional peer review, such as Encyclopedia of Life, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Scholarpedia, h2g2, and Everything2. Citizendium, an online encyclopedia, was started by Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger in an attempt to create an "expert-friendly" Wikipedia.[191][192][193].



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