Putting Wikipedia in perspective

November 25, 2006

Wikipedia is growing like you simply would not believe, like a virus – albeit a slightly geeky one. In fact, the project recently passed 1.5 million articles on the English version alone, from the first few all the way back at the site’s foundation in January 2001. That’s a hell of a way to go, so I thought it might be worth giving some perspective.

The English Wikipedia, with its two million users and countless anonymous editors, produces an enormous amount of content every day. Since its creation, in fact, Wikipedia’s editors have penned an average of 29 new articles every hour. Does that sound impressive? Well, now consider the fact that the website has been growing exponentially – not at a constant rate of 29 articles every day of every year – and by June 2006 was adding two thousand new articles to the database every single day. That’s the last month for which we have statistics for en:Wikipedia, because soon afterwards the servers became so swamped with the rate of editing that it became impossible to produce live statistics.

And that’s just for the English-language Wikipedia. The total for that month was well in excess of eight thousand new articles among the 250 languages that Wikipedia supports, a number that continues to grow.

Let’s also look at the number of edits that Wikipedians make — and the numbers are just staggering. Over 3.6 million edits were made in the month of June 2006, altering over half a billion words and 3.7GB of data. In case you didn’t catch that, the English Wikipedia alone received and average of 120,000 edits every day. And to think, in January 2001 there were a mere 222 edits made to the entire website. I’ve made that many edits in the last fortnight!

It should be clear by now that Wikipedia is really rather big. It is now the largest encyclopedia ever produced by far, followed by this hefty 72-volume collection of bathroom reading material, which clocked in a mere one million articles and two hundred million words (two-thirds and two-fifths of what Wikipedia boasts today, respectively). The Encyclopedia Britannica contains a mere 120,000 articles in its online edition, and little more than 10% of Wikipedia’s word count. On the other hand, its online edition contains an average of 650 words per article — nearly twice as many as Wikipedia, so I guess we can call it even.

What point am I trying to get across, here?

Well, what I guess I’m trying to say is that Wikipedia — like Space — is quite big.


2 Responses to “Putting Wikipedia in perspective”

  1. Jasmine Says:

    Hi David. I’ve added a link to you from my blog! :)

  2. daveydweeb Says:

    Thanks, Jasmine. :) Do I deserve it, though? I still can’t solve the 4x4x4…

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