Is Wikipedia a reliable and socially beneficial resource?
Wikipedia is a free, multilingual, open content encyclopedia project operated by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a blend of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites) and encyclopedia. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it is the largest, fastest-growing and most popular general reference work currently available on the Internet.
It is, by far, the largest encyclopedia in the history of the world, twenty times larger in its volume of words than its closest counter-part, encyclopedia Britannica.
Wikipedia attracts 683 million visitors annually reading over 10 million articles in 253 languages, comprising a combined total of over 1.74 billion words for all Wikipedias. The English Wikipedia edition passed the 2,000,000-article mark on September 9, 2007, and as of May 28, 2008 it had over 2,390,000 articles consisting of over 1,034,000,000 words. The amazing success of Wikipedia and its implications for the future of knowledge exchange have prompted many to critique and question its model, its reliability, and its future.
Is Wikipedia reliable as a reference work? Is it as reliable as Britannica? Is it better than Britannica? Is Wikipedia's openness to editing by anybody around the world a source of strength or vulnerability to non-experts, misinformation, and vandalism? Is its overall model of consensus over credentials valuable or susceptible to a kind of tyranny of the majority? Do these policies tend to cause Wikipedia to suffer from a systemic bias that gives too much priority and attention to popular, albeit insignificant topics. Is Wikipedia's policy of Neutral Point of View (NPOV) a strength or a problem?