Wikipedia 20th anniversary | The libertarian internet dinosaur has become the worlds largest encyclopedia – Inspired Traveler

Posted: January 17, 2021 at 10:01 am

(Paris) Wikipedia is still the greatest digital common good that the internet has delivered to us: the free online encyclopedia, one of the last dinosaurs of the libertarian and participatory internet, celebrates its 20 years with several challenges to overcome.

Posted on January 15, 2021 at 8:55 a.m.

Yassine KHIRIFrance Media Agency

A small miracle at the time of the triumph of the GAFAM and the Internet merchant, as described to AFP the historian Rmi Mathis, ex-president of the association Wikimedia France.

Founded on January 15, 2001 by the American Jimmy Wales with a non-profit goal, Wikipedia aims to bring together the knowledge of the planet on a single online platform thanks to millions of voluntary contributors.

The success was immediate. The first site was developed in English, German and Swedish Wikipedia followed in March 2001, and soon after ten more including French, Italian, Chinese, Russian and Catalan.

Looking to the future, Jimmy Wales hopes Wikipedia will spread to developing countries: It is really important that the next billion people coming on the internet want to contribute. The founder, interviewed by AFP, dreams of an institution that lasts so long [] than the University of Oxford.

PHOTO DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS, AFP

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

The seventh most visited site in the world, Wikipedia has more than 55 million articles published in 309 languages. The content of each site is independent: no translations, but original contributions, sometimes supplemented by robots from public data.

Contrary to the traditional encyclopedia written by recognized experts, this collection of knowledge compiled by amateurs, often anonymous, has attracted innumerable criticism and hostility from certain academic circles.

When we know in more detail how Wikipedia is monitored, the articles are written, and the community exchanges, we can still consider that there is an overall level of reliability which is important, estimates Lionel Barbe, master of conferences at Paris-Nanterre University.

There remains a problem of diversity in the sources and themes addressed, with blind spots on subjects linked to developing countries. In question, the profile of contributors, mainly from the United States and Western countries.

The fact of wanting to build an encyclopedia does not attract just anyone and the people who are there are often CSPs, urban, graduates, supports Rmi Mathis, author of Wikipedia: Behind the Scenes of the Worlds Largest Encyclopedia (First Editions).

80%, or even more, it is white men who write Wikipedia articles, explains to AFP Marie-Nolle Doutreix, lecturer at the University of Lyon 2.

We went from 15% to 18.6% of biographies of women in French Wikipedia, says Natacha Fault. Founder of the Les sans pages project, aimed at combating gender imbalances.

But the gender gap will never be filled, because the reality is that the achievements of women have been very little documented throughout history.

Despite everything, at a time of the triumph of GAFAM, the online encyclopedia is a rare survivor of the participatory utopia of the libertarian web, conceived as a decentralized network of exchange and knowledge, recalls Lionel Barbe, for which Wikipedia is after all the greatest digital common good that the Internet has delivered to us.

Jimmy Wales assures us: We are not diverted from our mission for the sake of making more income, so we are not faced with these problems that we see today, this question of algorithms designed in such a way as to encourage engagement in order to increase advertising revenue.

The commercial Internet also has an interest in Wikipedia continuing, nuance Marie-Nolle Doutreix. Google has promoted the visibility of Wikipedia, but in return it uses its articles in its search engine and has significant traffic thanks to this encyclopedia.

Some would also like to draw inspiration from the encyclopedias original model of community moderation in the face of the massive circulation of false information on social networks.

We must not believe either that Wikipedia is going to save us from our own demons. It remains a tool. If we love conspiracy, I doubt that Wikipedia can discourage you, explains Lionel Barbe.

So Wikipedia faces two great challenges: to continue to encourage vocations as encyclopedias, and to moderate its own content and internal debates, on the basis of voluntary work.

All of this, as Lionel Barbe explains, in a context of very strong growth in collective fantasies.

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Wikipedia 20th anniversary | The libertarian internet dinosaur has become the worlds largest encyclopedia - Inspired Traveler

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