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W for Wonder

The waiting, the insatiable waiting. A black line of pixels slowly crawling towards a finish line. When it reached its destination, gratification. A source of wonder unfolds — stories rich in meaning and value illuminate events of the past, present or future.

The feeling you got when starting your computer 20 years ago, looking forward to diving into the unexplored creases and folds of the Internet. In an era when the dispersion of information was still in the hands of the often wise yet under-appreciated librarians. Those days were the dawn of Wikipedia. A source of free information that is still veiled in controversy.

20 years has passed since the launch of the online lexicon which changed the way we gather initial information forever. A site which has endured continued attacks ever since, even with its countless crowded iterations and fundraisers. A site dependable on us, a site which we have grown to depend upon equally.

Wikipedia in March 2002. Source: Wikipedia.

We can spend as much time recounting the history of Wikipedia as the site itself uses on recounting the history of humankind. But that is not the point which we seek to put forward. We wish to extend something more fickle and fragile, the sensation of Wikipedia — the feeling you get when you type — wiki — in your browser and it loyally suggests to send you on a journey of wonder. A journey that can take you to any culture in the world or place in time.

For there are few places, things or happenings which have been overlooked by Wikipedia, and its devoted contributors. They quickly change the grammar of events or biographies in haste with the content. They write the history of our time so fast that for some it can be considered as a news outlet. They know to highlight people of history at opportune moments in current events. They never fail to mention the artist which you were supposed to read about in your youth. Yet Wikipedia can still show you how fun it can be to be completely lost in fascination. Who can’t say that they have gone on a wild goose chase which started with you wondering who the fourth Beatle was, ending in reading about strawberry agriculture?

Wikipedia is an open source of knowledge which also makes it a possible source of misinformation. A warning which everyone who went to school in the early two-thousands remembers well. I do not think teachers had a personal vendetta against a source which could produce specific information on either the thirty years war or the thickness of the saliva of the bullfrog of the Amazon. They just knew that it may be unpredictable, and people tend not to trust the unpredictable. The lack of authority and finality presented there is sometimes a challenge to the way in which we see knowledge. As Burger King experienced when the article on their hamburger “the whopper” was constantly revised during an advertising campaign based on the user interactions with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

Wikipedia in January 2021. Source: Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is free, and their team insists on this. They have run the page as one of the largest non-profit platforms on the Internet for nearly twenty years. And the site continues to be supported only through crowdsourced fundraising. We can say that they continue to be one of the driving forces for openness and centralisation of information, which was one of the founding principles of the Internet. Wikipedia is truly the eighth wonder of the world and a shining beacon of the idea of what the Internet can be. The extreme democratisation of information will continue to progress and make our world a better place.

We can say with confidence that Wikipedia is smart. It will help us share ideas and information for a long time in the future. Happy Birthday to the most knowledgeable twenty-year-old of our time.

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Skalar

Smart digital products, the skalar way. | www.skalar.no.