Thursday, June 25, 2015
Can Wikipedia Survive?
WASHINGTON — WIKIPEDIA has come a long way since it started in 2001. With around 70,000 volunteers editing in over 100 languages, it is by far the world’s most popular reference site. Its future is also uncertain.
One of the biggest threats it faces is the rise of smartphones as the dominant personal computing device. A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years.
This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code. Even before smartphones were widespread, studies consistently showed that these are daunting tasks for newcomers. “Not even our youngest and most computer-savvy participants accomplished these tasks with ease,” a 2009 user test concluded. The difficulty of bringing on new volunteers has resulted in seven straight years of declining editor participation.