As Wiki Ages, Volunteers Drop Off

Ryan Whitwam

Wikipedia has become one of the largest crowdsourcing projects in the world since its debut about 8 years ago. It is also the fifth most popular website, garnering over 325 million visitors each month. Even with all this success, some are afraid for the future of the online encyclopedia. In recent years, volunteers have been leaving the site in huge numbers .

In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia experienced a net loss of over 49,000 editors. Compare that to the same period a year earlier when only 4,900 editors were lost. The Wikimedia foundation is aware of the losses, but believes the wiki will be able to continue.

As for the cause, there are two basic schools of thought. The first is that users are becoming weary of the hostile environment Wikipedia can be. Some may not want to engage in heated debates about content. Add to that the increasingly restrictive rules Wikipedia has had to set forth to combat vandalism and you may have a recipe for desertion. Others feel that there just isn’t that much work left to do.  Many articles have already been written and rewritten, leaving little for the average editor to add.

Whatever the cause, we can only hope that knowledge continues to be aggregated in Wikipedia. Where do you come down? Is Wikipedia withering on the vine? Or has it just reached a level of maturity that requires less tending to?

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