Following the call for insights from Wikipedia’s two decades, we made draft essays available for public feedback, which is now closed. Selected entries will be published in print by the MIT Press in Fall 2020, also under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license.
Updates, status, timeline, and discussion happen on Meta’s project page.
As Wikipedia’s twentieth year anniversary approaches, many of the site’s early peers have fallen by the wayside; those that survived have been overrun with ads and misinformation. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia founded on radical collaboration and reliable sourcing, persists. What was once a scrappy experiment has become the world’s most popular reference work. Recently, Wikipedia was even enlisted by its peers—unknowingly—to counteract their problems with fake news.
Yet, the online encyclopedia was not always looked to as the grownup of the web. Within its first ten years, some labeled the project a fad bound to fail, others claimed it as a harbinger of the Web’s future. Wikipedia did not fail, nor has the open collaboration it exemplifies become the template for most online platforms.
Wikipedia’s legacy is an opportunity to reflect on this project and online communities more generally. That is, what insights are available from Wikipedia’s twenty years of history? What does this history tell us of expectations fulfilled or disappointed, opportunities seized or missed, myths confirmed or busted, lessons learned, or the probable future?