Wikipedia founder: Public needs online references

Mar 27, 2012 By JON GAMBRELL , Associated Press
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia speaks during a seminar on youth marketing in Africa in Lagos, Nigeria,Tuesday, March. 27, 2012. The man who helped found Wikipedia says the end of the printing of the Encyclopaedia Britannica signals a new beginning for reference materials online. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

(AP) -- The man who helped create the online reference Wikipedia said Tuesday that the end of Encyclopaedia Britannica's print run shows the world's growing reliance on the Internet as a base for knowledge.

Jimmy Wales' first visit to Nigeria also highlighted the growth of other languages besides English on , particularly the Yoruba language of the oil-rich nation's southwest. While growth remains slow and uneven, Wales said he hopes more users for the community-edited website will begin offering new articles as creation on the English version has slowed as it now has nearly 4 million entries.

"I'm an optimist about the Internet as a force for preserving culture, while at the same time increasing . I don't think we have to have either/or," Wales told The Associated Press in an interview in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos.

Wikipedia's popularity remains high among as print resources continue to suffer. This month, the owners of , published since 1768, announced its print edition will stop being available when its current stock runs out.

The Chicago-based Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., which publishes the 32-volume set, said it will continue to offer . Wales said that decision represented the will of a public now expecting to have knowledge at the push of a mobile phone button or at the finger-sweep of a .

"It's the culmination of a very, very long trend. In a way, it's a sad moment, but it's the way technology moves on," Wales said. "Even if we think Britannica is what we want, we really want Britannica on an or a phone, accessible to us all the time, not in dusty books on the shelf - no matter how beautiful those might be."

Wales acknowledges the limits of Wikipedia, a website he said is edited by a user base that's 87 percent male, with an average age of 26. He said he hopes a simplified editing process will allow the reference site to attract a more diverse range of contributors with knowledge in a variety of fields.

In Africa, Wales said that the Yoruba language of Nigeria's southwest, including Lagos, led the continent in actual pages in its own version of Wikipedia with more than 29,000 pages. However, the majority of those articles came from "bots" - programs designed to take data from a table and create a simple Wikipedia entry. Detailed entries remain far fewer, as there appears to be one dominant user creating the Yoruba entries, he said.

Connectivity to the Internet remains another challenge. Nigeria in particular relies on Internet over mobile phone networks as hard-wired lines remain few and expensive. Fiber optic lines now running under the ocean to Nigeria could see better service brought to the nation of more than 160 million people.

"From this hotel, the speed of the connection is better than New York City, which is quite amazing," Wales said during a speech Tuesday at a seminar on youth marketing, drawing applause from the crowd. "Of course there are bigger challenges. For one thing, this is at a fancy hotel by the seaside and of course loads of people across Nigeria are still struggling with very difficult access issues."

Explore further: LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Last entry for Encyclopaedia Britannica book form

Mar 15, 2012

Hours after Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. announced it will stop publishing print editions of its flagship encyclopedia for the first time in more than 200 years, someone among the editing minions of free ...

Wikipedia eyes India for language growth

Nov 09, 2011

Wikipedia on Wednesday said it was banking on growth in the mobile phone sector and increased Internet access to boost content in Indian languages ranging from Hindi to Telugu.

Wikipedia founder hails role in US

Jan 26, 2012

(AP) -- The founder of Wikipedia hailed the online encyclopedia's role in helping halt U.S. legislation aimed at cracking down on Internet piracy, saying the proposed bills needed to be stopped because they ...

Ten years on, Wikipedia eyes a better world

Jan 12, 2011

Ten years after its debut as a geeky online encyclopedia, Wikipedia today wants to use its huge, growing popularity and spirit to spread knowledge across the world.

Recommended for you

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

19 hours ago

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren't 'whiter than white'

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different ...