We all appreciate Wikipedia. We all appreciate the fact that whenever there’s a need to get any information, we fall back on this site. Be it when USS Enterprise was built or if media baron Rupert Murdoch is marrying again, we can get all the information from this online encyclopaedia.
There was a time when gathering information was not a mean task, but things started changing after Jimmy Wales teamed up with Larry Sanger to kickstart Wikipedia in 2000. It was a crowd-sourced online encyclopaedia that anyone could contribute to and could easily edit as well. We all remember the tonnes of encyclopaedias that used to fill up precious shelf space in our libraries and homes. But with the advent of this online information treasure trove, the printed encyclopaedias slowly took the backseat. When the Encyclopaedia Britannica went out of print in 2012 after a glorious run of 244 years, it humbly accepted its defeat to Wikipedia. It is not only user-friendly, but is also absolutely free to access.
When the service was launched incidentally with a wiki about William Alston, a Syracuse University philosophy professor then described as ‘arguably the greatest epistemologist of the 20th century’, seasoned editors of the popular encyclopaedias laughed at the effort. They said an online encyclopaedia that can be written and edited by anyone cannot be called accurate.
Tech journalists feared that it would become a cesspool of warring factions. Finance journalists thought it would go bankrupt if it did not start showing ads. But in the end, all of them were proven wrong. Over the years, the Wiki community became mature. Bad writers and bad editors were slowly weeded out. And even on the most controversial subjects, Wikipedia managed to maintain its neutral tone with the help of those remaining committed writers and editors. And with crowd funding through donations, it has remained ad-free and is accessible to anyone for free.
To this day it maintains its spartan appearance giving importance to the text rather than to jazzy effects, making it accessible to even the poorest users with meagre data limits. Even as it turns 15, Wikipedia continues to be the trusted destination for all information in 60 different languages.