Larry Sanger, one of the founders of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, is launching a new encyclopedia project he hopes will unseat Wikipedia as the go-to destination for general information online.
Wikipedia comprises articles largely written by a community of users. However, any visitor can contribute an article or modify an existing one on the Web site.
Like Wikipedia, the Citizendium, or "the Citizen's Compendium," will be a wiki project open to public collaboration, Sanger said. But, unlike Wikipedia, the community will be "guided by expert editors, and contributors will be expected to use their own names, not anonymous pseudonyms," according to its Web site.
"I've been frustrated that the direction Wikipedia has been traveling in since 2002, and my main complaints about it haven't changed since then," Sanger said. "For a long time I actually assumed that they were finally going to get their heads on straight and install a responsible approval process and grow to a greater level of maturity as a community, but it just hasn't happened. The failure of Wikipedia management to make meaningful reforms to meet libel problems and problems of reliability have basically reached a breaking point for me. I also saw an opportunity. There's a huge latent demand for an expert-guided Wikipedia."
The Wikimedia Foundation, the group behind Wikipedia, could not be reached for comment.
"One of the main reasons there is so much contention among the Wikipedia community is that people are constantly getting into these edit wars, where they simply can't agree on some particular point, and often the point turns on something quite substantive that an expert in the subject would be expected to know about," Sanger said. "So we're going to do an end run around such things by allowing editors to make decisions when issues of controversy arise. If the editors disagree as well, we'll have a dispute-resolution process for that."
"The Citizendium will begin by 'mirroring' Wikipedia's content, which its license, the GNU Free Documentation License, permits. Contributors will then be able to edit articles under the new system," according to the statement. Ultimately, the Web site intends to produce better content or replace the Wikipedia-sourced content, it said.
The pilot project for authors and editors will be invitation-only and will launch soon but may not be viewed by the public. Invitations to apply are on the Citizendium Web site. After initial work, the project will be opened to public view and to contributions by anyone who supplies his real name, a working e-mail address and a statement of commitment to the Citizendium's "social contract," or basic policies, according to the statement.