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Encyclopedia Britannica in the age of Wikipedia | Dan Gillmor

March 15, 2012

It’s the end of an era. What Gutenberg brought us was good for 500 years, it was amazing, it had changed the world so profoundly as only fire did before. Now a new change has happened, a new reality has kicked in and books are no more – at least no more in the form of dead trees.

Tim Berners-Lee gesticulating at the launch of...

Tim Berners-Lee, father of the web

Interestingly enough Wikipedia is a huge success, but is now going through pain of it’s own. Wikipedia editors are dwindling and the ones that remain are too old-school to be able to bring up new generation. A lot of Wikipedia sections are getting stale – it’s not unusual for me to read Wikipedia articles where years like 2008 and 2010 are being spoken about in future tense.  The speed of change is accelerating. It’s not just Microsoft being disposed by Google and now Google by Facebook, but Wikipedia being disposed for services that give more of instant gratification to the masses. It will be interesting to await the answer from Wikipedia’s masterminds like Jimmy Wales.  It would be funny to see Larry Page and Jimmy Wales sitting down together and discussing plans how to make their old toys shiny again.

Bonus future-history question: Will the phrase “Tim Berners-Lee” ever be used as a name of the event as in “There were books, but then Tim Berners-Lee happened and books went extinct”?

Encyclopedia Britannica in the age of Wikipedia | Dan Gillmor

The end of Britannica printing its encyclopedia is really just a footnote in the great story of online access to knowledge My childhood was richer because we had an encyclopedia at home. It wasn’t the ultra-expensive Encyclopedia Britannica, but rather the thinner, more modestly priced World Book.

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  1. Reblogged this on zemantified.

  2. It’s an end of an era indeed, but not the era of books. Encyclopedias came about during the age of enlightenment with the goal to bring knowledge to the masses. I’d say that what we are witnessing now is end of monopoly over information by the caste of “intellectuals”. I’m sure that the results of this tectonic shift will be quite interesting to observe and very unpredictable in effects.

  3. Well, Encyclopedia Britannica is at unfortunate position that era of printed encyclopedias is over and era of books is nearly over.

    I am actually awaiting which ‘knowledge bases’ are going to be taken down / shaken by crowdsourcing next. My bet is maps where we are almost half way there.

    btw: Wikipedia is just now going through a really tough phase. They have some real internal problems with not being able to keep the inflow of editors up and it seems they are getting ‘old’ and ‘closed’ (= closed editor community of good old boys).

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