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'Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet' by Richard Cooke
Richard Cooke writes the following for WIRED:
In its first decade of life, [Wikipedia] appeared in as many punch lines as headlines. The Office’s Michael Scott called it ‘the best thing ever,’ because ‘anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject—so you know you are getting the best possible information.’ Praising Wikipedia, by restating its mission, meant self-identifying as an idiot.
That was in 2007. Today, Wikipedia is the eighth-most-visited site in the world. The English-language version recently surpassed 6 million articles and 3.5 billion words; edits materialize at a rate of 1.8 per second. But perhaps more remarkable than Wikipedia’s success is how little its reputation has changed. It was criticized as it rose, and now makes its final ascent to … muted criticism. To confess that you’ve just repeated a fact you learned on Wikipedia is still to admit something mildly shameful. …
Of course, muted criticism is far better than what the other giants at the top of the internet are getting these days. …
Yet in an era when Silicon Valley’s promises look less gilded than before, Wikipedia shines by comparison. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10, and one of only a handful in the top 100. It does not plaster itself with advertising, intrude on privacy, or provide a breeding ground for neo-Nazi trolling. Like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, it broadcasts user-generated content. Unlike them, it makes its product de-personified, collaborative, and for the general good. More than an encyclopedia, Wikipedia has become a community, a library, a constitution, an experiment, a political manifesto—the closest thing there is to an online public square. It is one of the few remaining places that retains the faintly utopian glow of the early World Wide Web.
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