Who's behind Wikipedia?

Computerworld takes you on an in-depth look at the world’s largest and most celebrated open encyclopedia – Wikipedia

The Future

Laugher believes that it is very hard to predict where Wikipedia will be in five, ten or twenty years.

She says the exponential growth in both size and popularity that Wikipedia enjoyed in it's infancy has begun to wane, and now Jimmy Wales is pushing an emphasis on quality over quantity.

"I think that is right and the way it will continue. There are more and more extensive quality mechanisms now rating the projects that are going on.

"It would be wrong to say that we have coverage down-pat, because it's not true, especially for historical topics. That will continue, but those areas will continue to be filled out. Someone with an interest in, say, 17th Century German politics will eventually come and fill it out. But quality is one of our keywords for the next little while."

Laugher believes the most promising aspect the future holds for Wikipedia is the fact that it's licensing ensures that even if the community were to implode, the content will always be there.

"It is still quite useful even as it stands today, so even if it did get frozen today and no one makes anymore edits that won't remove the usefulness of the content in its current form, and that is one of the great things about the copyleft license," she said.

The major downside of the copyleft policy is that it becomes possible, should there be a major division within the Wikimedia community, for all the content to be copied and opened within a new project.

"Statistics and widespread analysis is also something that we haven't really been very good at, and the Wikimedia Foundation has just announced that they are pairing up with organizations related to the UN to do some much larger scale studies to find out people's motivations for editing and contributing," Laugher said.

"It's kind of unimaginable if Wikipedia will exist or what it will look like in 20 years, but it's reassuring to know because of the license that the current utility of it will never be taken away. No one person owns it - that is our gift to the world."

Wikipedia's own analysis of its history can be found here, along with an article detailing the major criticisms of Wikipedia.

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