Do you remember heading to a library to look up information in an encyclopedia set? Maybe you were lucky like me and had a set in your own home. For many younger people, the evolution of technology means they never actually used a printed encyclopedia. A large part of this is due to the development of Wikipedia, which quickly became the defacto knowledge base of the entire world.
Before Wikipedia, there were many digitized encyclopedias available, first as CD-ROM based software and then online commercial encyclopedias. What set Wikipedia apart was first that it was and still is free, but more importantly the fact that it was a community project involving anyone in the world who wanted to add or edit information. Because of this, many regard Wikipedia as the most up-to-date database of the world’s knowledge. Despite the occasional highly publicized misinformation making its way onto Wikipedia, many still regard its data just as or more reliable than traditional encyclopedias since so many people contribute and manage its quality. Indeed Wikipedia was the world’s first major crowdsourcing project, even before that term became popular, and it has democratized the sharing of information throughout the world. No longer do people need access to a large set of books or pay for access to an encyclopedia to find answers to questions or learn more about a particular topic. The knowledge of the world is literally at most of our fingertips today and we owe a lot to Wikipedia for organizing this information so that we can find it quickly and easily.
How has Wikipedia impacted your life in the last 15 years? Comment below and let me know what you think of my #12 pick!