One for all, and all for one: 10 years of Wikipedia

January 15, 2011

Today, January 15, 2011, Wikipedia is turning 10. Probably, you have read, listened or watched the news and reminders about this landmark. Maybe, you have also read about important milestones in Wikipedia history, some of its bizarre facts and traits, as well as good wishes from many people. Finally (as usual), you can also find lists of several hoaxes and pitfalls found in Wikipedia articles over this period.

But even this huge impact in mass media and social networks will eventually fade out. What will happen, then? Well, we will come back to our daily routine: going to work, attending high school or university, driving home,  hanging out with friends, going on vacations… Nonetheless, something will continue to make a difference. Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia that anyone can edit, will always be available, whenever we need it. Thanks to thousands of inidividual donors , it has truly become a fundamental tool of our networked information economy.

The best examples are real stories from real users. Today, I was interviewed with Raystorm (sysop of the Spanish Wikipedia) in La Ventana (Cadena SER), a national radio show. At some point, Gemma Nierga invited her audience to call the program, send tweets and write Facebook updates to share their opinion and thoughts about their daily experience with Wikipedia. It was really illuminating. Guillermo, from A Coruña confessed: “Wikipedia has established a turning point in our bar gatherings [...] It has simply ruined them in one fell swoop. You only have to look up the answer in Wikipedia, and you are done”. Yeap, I can remember many of those: which soccer player was the top scorer last season? In which year did that movie open? Amparo from Madrid is also “delighted”. She is over 65, she keeps on working and, today, “Wikipedia saved my life, twice!!” while working with a German colleague. She had to find the correct German Lander corresponding to several cities mentioned in a report. In just a few minutes, she was done. “It is impossible that I had a book about German States in my office!”, she concluded.

That is Wikipedia, in pure state. That is why, despite we all know that many articles could contain some flaws at a given moment, it receives more than 400 million unique visits per month, and Wikimedia Foundation projects (summing up all their traffic) are the 5th most visited websites in the world, and the only ones in the top-10 supported by a non-profit organization. That is why we use it at work, in education, writing blogs like this one, hanging out with friends, and in a myriad other different situations.

This is the past, and the present of one of the flagship projects of Internet, sustained by open collaboration, producing free content available for everyone, at no cost. Sometimes I smile when I remember how some people, back in 2005, stared at me with a strange, fascinated expression to come out with something like “Wikipedia… seriously? Is that the topic of your thesis?” I am glad that I chose Wikipedia.

With 17 million articles in more than 270 different languages, it is tempting to state that Wikipedia has already reached a well-established position. However, the project must continue to improve its quality and accuracy, and broaden its content, restlessly, fuelled by the spirit of dynamism, openess, collaboration and free content. Wikipedias with fewer articles will increase their number of entries. We wait for better participation from countries and region in the Global South. The editing interface will become easier and more intuitive, to make it accessible for a wider group of potential editors. The list is both challenging and encouraging.

Dartagnan and The Three Musketeers

Wikipedia is made by the people, for the people. Therefore, as a new digital incarnation of the commendable spirit of The Musketeers, Wikipedia depends on our work, and we now depend on its content. it will evolve to answer the needs of our interconnected society. Let’s work together to make Wikipedia a remarkable accomplishment of our open, collaborative, digital world.

Una para todos y todos para una…
Une pour tous, tous pour une…
One for all, all for one…
Una pro omnibus, omnes pro una…
[You can place here the translation in your own language]

Happy birthday, Wikipedia.

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