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Wikis, Wikipedia, and the World Wide Web

Picture this: it’s 10:50 p.m., Thursday night, and you have a full essay due at that cursed date, 11:59 p.m. You race to look for research materials on the French Revolution, and come up with only a few subpar student-made Prezis about Versailles and the Estates General. Frustrated, you start over and go to the site you know you can trust -- Wikipedia. Despite your teachers’ warnings not to use Wikipedia because, “aNyOnE CaN eDiT a WiKiPeDiA pAgE,” you already know a way around this: the prized footnotes. You scan the resources and open the ones that are websites, and find absolutely everything you need to write your essay. Thanks to Wikipedia, you turn it in at 11:57 p.m., blow a hair out of your face, and collapse on your bed, probably to stay up for a couple more hours before swearing to manage your time better the next day.

Wikipedia, and other wikis, aren’t just useful for expert procrastinators. The technology that allows multiple people to edit one web page is a very interesting one, full of even more interesting history. The first wiki was developed by a man named Ward Cunningham in 1994 for software developers to be able to more easily communicate and build on each others’ ideas. From WardsWiki and grew multiple other “spin-off” wikis, and eventually the idea and technology became widespread.

Nowadays, some of the most popular wiki sites include Wikipedia (wiki sites for a multitude of different topics), Fandom (wikis for different cultures and things such as movies, video games, books, etc), Wikihow (wikis on tutorials for how to a multitude of different things), Wikileaks (wiki pages exposing different classified information), and more. These different wikis have contributed to the general life and history of the internet, and shaped online culture. Wikis can arguably be seen as one of the most important building blocks of the structure of free information and collaboration in truth that is so essential to the internet.

If you want to start your own wiki, here’s an article from Wikihow detailing just how to do so: Personally, I learned a lot about my interests from wikis, like the DC Fandom wiki, which taught me almost everything I know about the DC Universe. And, yes, I admit it, I am definitely guilty of using Wikipedia to procrastinate on various different papers and projects. As Mr. Cunningham said himself, “Wiki pages are very much free form,” and that’s why I’ve found them so useful in many phases of my life. I hope they may be as useful, and a little more interesting now, to you as well. Happy reading!

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