What Is a Wiki?

Do you take today’s technology for granted? When you have to assist your parents and relatives with technology issues, just remember that they grew up in a world quite different from the world you live in today.

When they wrote a research paper, they initially had to go to the library. They had to search for information from within the pages of encyclopedias that often took up multiple shelves to store their two dozen or more hardbound volumes.

Today, you probably start by turning on your computer and going straight to a search engine on the Internet. If you don’t know anything about a topic, you might look for an overview article on one of the Internet’s most popular sites: Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is our modern version of the old paper encyclopedia. Its name indicates that it’s a combination of old (pedia) and new (wiki) technology. But what exactly is a wiki?

Essentially, a wiki is a website that allows users to contribute and modify its content collaboratively within a web browser using wiki software, known as a wiki engine. The very first wiki, WikiWikiWeb, was created by Ward Cunningham in 1995.

Cunningham described his creation as “the simplest online database that could possibly work.” He named it a wiki after a Hawaiian word meaning “quick.”

In addition to enabling users to create and edit site content via any web browser, wiki software also enables users to quickly reorganize content and cross-reference related content. Wikis quickly gained popularity as Internet users recognized the advantages of sharing information and collaborating on new projects in an open environment that can adapt and grow to meet users’ needs.

Today, there are thousands of wikis in use worldwide. Their purposes vary as much as their users. The most popular wiki by far is Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia project that has become one of the top ten websites on the Internet.

However, not all Internet users are fans of wikis. For some, the openness and simplicity of wikis is considered a weakness. Wiki opponents argue that the information contained within a wiki can be unreliable, since anyone can edit it to reflect their own personal beliefs or biases.

On the other hand, wiki proponents believe that the simplicity and openness of wikis encourage everyone to contribute the information they have, thereby creating a more comprehensive body of content than would otherwise be possible. They believe that unreliable information will be quickly eliminated by wiki users who recognize such content for what it is and remove it.

Furthermore, many wikis have safeguards in place to prevent users from intentionally vandalizing or corrupting content. Most wikis include tools that allow community users to track changes being made. This feature enables users to promptly respond to new information and ensure that it is reliable and accurate.

If you’re writing a research paper, your teacher may advise you against relying solely on Wikipedia — or any wiki — as your source of information. While it may seem like your teacher is against wikis, it’s actually good advice to ensure that you base your research paper on quality information from multiple reliable sources.

Try It Out

Are you ready to share your thoughts? Check out the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • If you want to see how much the first wiki has evolved since 1995, visit WikiWikiWeb. Explore the site to understand its content and functionality. What do you think? What do you consider the best aspect of a wiki?
  • Have you ever used Wikipedia? If you’re a student who has ever searched on Google, chances are you’ve encountered this popular online encyclopedia. Today, take some time to research your hometown or favorite sports team on Wikipedia. What new information did you learn? Do you have any knowledge to contribute?
  • Feeling up for a challenge? Create your own version of a Wikipedia page about yourself! You can use a computer or simply pen and paper. Write a brief article about yourself, including relevant facts and your personal history. Once finished, share your article with friends and family so they can add their own information about you. Afterward, evaluate the process. Was collaboration helpful? Did others’ viewpoints improve the final article? Why or why not?

Sources of Wonder

  • http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/wiki.htm
  • http://wiki.org/wiki.cgi?WhatIsWiki
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki


1. What is a wiki?

A wiki is a collaborative website that allows multiple users to create, edit, and organize content. It is a platform where users can contribute and modify information, making it a valuable tool for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Wikis are typically easy to use and navigate, with a simple interface that allows users to create and edit pages. They are often used for creating knowledge bases, documentation, or collaborative projects.

2. How does a wiki work?

A wiki works by allowing multiple users to edit and contribute to its content. Users can create new pages, edit existing pages, and link different pages together. The collaborative nature of a wiki means that anyone with access can make changes to the content, creating a dynamic and constantly evolving platform. Most wikis also have a version control system, which tracks changes and allows users to revert to previous versions if needed. This ensures that the information on a wiki remains accurate and up to date.

3. What are the benefits of using a wiki?

Using a wiki has several benefits. Firstly, it promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing among users. Multiple people can contribute their expertise and create a comprehensive resource. Secondly, a wiki allows for easy organization and navigation of information. Users can create links between pages, making it easy to find related content. Additionally, wikis are typically user-friendly and require minimal technical knowledge to use. This means that anyone can contribute and edit content, regardless of their technical skills. Finally, wikis are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, making them a convenient tool for remote collaboration.

4. What are some examples of popular wikis?

Some examples of popular wikis include Wikipedia, the largest and most well-known wiki, which is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Another example is WikiHow, a wiki that provides how-to guides on a wide range of topics. There are also wikis dedicated to specific subjects or communities, such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki or the Linux Documentation Project Wiki. These examples demonstrate the versatility and wide range of applications for wikis.

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