Wikipedia celebrates its 10th anniversary Saturday following a three-year period that saw a dramatic increase in its usage, now serving almost 400 million unique visitors monthly, according to 2010 comScore figures.
Since 2007, the percentage of American adults who use the online encyclopedia grew from 25 per cent to 42 per cent according to a survey published by Pew Internet.
Articles on Wikipedia, which is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation, are open to the public, created and under constant revision by users who try to add additional information and clarity.
80,000 volunteer editors
The site has become integral in the way information is shared globally, expanded and maintained by more than 80,000 volunteer editors.
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"It is a very important development. It serves as a major intellectual resource, as intellectual commons," said Andrew Clement, professor in the faculty of information at the University of Toronto, in a statement to the CBC.
Since going online on Jan. 15, 2001, Wikipedia has grown to include 15 million articles in more than 270 languages.
Though many consider traditional encyclopedias as direct competition to the site, the reality is that similar sites receive a small fraction of the traffic relative to Wikipedia.
The Wikimedia Foundation's 2009 annual report shows competitors such as MSN Encarta and Britannica.com with fewer than 25 million unique monthly visitors. These figures are not insignificant, but certainly negligible in comparison with Wikipedia's numbers.
Despite its overarching success, proponents believe a need exists to address some of Wikipedia's core concerns, which include accessibility and general accuracy.
Obstacles to growth
- 69 per cent of users have at least a college degree.
- 62 per cent of users are under the age of 30.
- 33 per cent of users are over the age of 65.
- 61 per cent of users have a household income of at least $75,000 US or more.
- The site has been blocked on several occasions in countries including China, Syria, Thailand and Pakistan.
- The article on the 2008 Mumbai attacks is nearly 43,000 words long, and has been edited more than 4,000 times by various users.
- A petition asking for the removal of all depictions of Prophet Muhammad from the site includes more than 450,000 signatures.
Source: Pew Internet
Joseph Reagle, fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard University and author of Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia, is a strong supporter Wikipedia, however he is aware that Wikipedia needs to overcome obstacles to sustain the rate of growth established in its first decade.
"Remaining accessible is important," said Reagle.
"One of the greatest challenges is that contributors are dropping off and that the process is becoming too complex and bureaucratic."
Despite ongoing issues regarding its credibility over content and architecture, the Wikimedia Foundation received more than $6.3 million US in donations alone in 2009, most which was budgeted solely to maintenance and expansion.
This is largely influenced by Wikimedia's long appeal to users for monetary contributions through large banners, which have since been removed.
Even without conventional advertising, Reagle notes that donations, many of which are made anonymously, are likely to continue to rise and sustain the Wikimedia Foundation. With internal 2010 expense estimates at more than $20 million US, it might be forced to consider a new business model.