The free internet encyclopedia is one of the world’s most popular websites and uses volunteers to create pages and check facts
Fears are rising that the usefulness of Wikipedia could be undermined as thousands of volunteer researchers abandon the site. The free internet encyclopedia is one of the world’s most popular websites and uses volunteers to create pages and check facts.
However the English-language version of the site suffered a net loss of 49,000 volunteer ‘editors’ in the first three months of this year, compared with 4,900 for the same period a year earlier, according to a university study.
This is believed to be a result of increased bureaucracy to prevent errors – such as the death of Senator Edward Kennedy being announced prematurely – and the sense that Wikipedia is now part of the establishment.
Founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales, it has become the fifth most popular website in the world with about 325million visits a month.
It allows registered users to modify entries but this can leave it open to abuse, most recently when its page for footballer Thierry Henry was flooded with obscenities after his handball helped France to beat Ireland in a World Cup play-off.
The research, by Felipe Ortega, at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, found that tens of thousands of Wikipedia editors were no longer contributing – and were not being replaced.
Mr Ortega, who created a programme analysing the editing history of more than three million Wikipedia contributors, told The Times: ‘If you don’t have enough people to take care of the project it could vanish quickly.
‘We’re not in that situation yet. But eventually, if the negative trends follow, we could be in that situation.’
He said contributors ‘don’t feel the spirit of the first years’.
He added: ‘The articles are very tightly controlled by others now, and that makes it hard to jump in and contribute.’
Andrew Dalby, author of The World And Wikipedia: How We Are Editing Reality, questioned whether there was much left to add to the site, which already contains around three million articles.
He said it was also becoming more difficult to contribute.
‘There is an increase in bureaucracy and rules,’ he said. ‘Wikipedia grew because of the lack of rules. That has been forgotten. The rules are regarded as irritating and useless by many contributors.’
He added: ‘There’s the frustration of realising that what you will do will not stay there forever. Somebody else will come along and rewrite it, re-edit it and, maybe in your view, spoil it.’
Via Daily Mail