Wikipedia is the fifth most visited web site in the world, and the most often cited example of crowdsourcing, but there is trouble in paradise. Created by Jimmy Donal Wales, and its army of users, some say that Wikipedia’s credibility issues are expanding along with it. Is it time for a new online encyclopedia?
Wikipedia has always had its critics, but the Britannica-lovers are getting more vocal of late. The problem is that Wikipedia’s volunteer editors are not increasing at the same rate as the articles, thus the quality of the content is under threat. Compounding this is the fact that the site is being very slow at introducing quality-control measures. Set up with a utopian vision, even a simple change such has having new user entries checked prior to publication is facing resistance because it is seen as being contrary to the wiki ethos.
The site may have reached a tipping point at which expansion reduces the quality of the product. This is a dangerous state of affairs, as once an encyclopedia has too many examples of errors it can rapidly lose the credibility on which it relies.
Right now there is also no clear way to measure who the good editors are, and it is not known how Wikipedia will attract the increase in editors that it needs. Furthermore, there is no way for a reader to assess the quality of an article when they land on the site. The site has crowd contribution, without using that crowd resource to make sure that the cream rises to the top. Should they Digg the site up a bit?
What interests me is that Wales thinks that Wikipeida’s dominance is safe because of its charitable status. He says of Google, “They don’t look at us and see a $1bn revenue opportunity they should be competing for.” I disagree: even though Google’s Knoll is only just over 100,000 articles I wouldn’t count them, or a new entrant, out of the game. Just because Wikipedia doesn’t monetize its eyeballs it does not mean a new company can’t. And if Wikipedia’s problems do expand, then expect a nimble competitor to come in and offer an alternative. One thing we can say for certain is that the top five sites is not going to be a static list over the next few years.
What do you think would make a Wikipedia killer? Have editors share in the AdSense revenue of the pages they edit? Have an international network of universities create the encyclopedia in return for branding and revenue share?