Online encyclopedia site Wikipedia was generally unavailable around the globe this morning after two cables stretching between Tampa, Florida and Virginia were cut this morning. Depending on location, Wikipedia was either completely dark or extremely slow loading, It took a little over an hour to repair the severed cables, and then another hour to restore service.
A couple of months have passed since the SOPA/PIPA uproar, and things on the online rights front have simmered down quite a bit, for the most part -- Megaupload and related happenings aside. One organization hasn't forgotten the promises it made in the heat of the moment, however: the Wikimedia Foundation. If you remember, Jimmy Wales said Wikipedia would transition away from GoDaddy's services because of the registrar's support for the controversial bill. That transition is currently underway, Wikimedia revealed in a blog post Wednesday.
As Wikipedia sits silent and dark for legions of despondent would-be users (who, apparently, never thought of Googling for some help around the blackout), a trio of old-school publications have stepped into the void to try and replace the collective knowledge of the Internet. The Washington Post, the Guardian, and NPR have been taking tweets from information-deprived Webizens and trying to provide answers to all life’s questions, large and small. Just smack an #altwiki tag at the end of a question and the combined brainpower will try to supply you with an honest-to-goodness answer.
The news coming out of Washington this weekend has been very, very encouraging for all the SOPA haters in the House; sponsor Lamar Smith said he was stripping the DNS blacklisting requirements from the bill, the White House issued a statement announcing it basically wouldn’t support a lot of the SOPA provisions, and there are even rumors of SOPA’s death floating around. That isn’t stopping Wikipedia from blacking out on January 18th to protest SOPA and its Senate-based sister act, PIPA. Reddit, Destructoid, and a host of other sites will also be shutting their virtual doors that day.
The Internet is going to be a cold, dark place on January 18th. After the Reddit team announced a few days back that the site would be down on that date as a protest to the proposed SOPA legislation, a couple of other organizations have decided to throw their lot in with Reddit and stage blackouts of their own. Namely, Minecraft, Destructoid, the iCanHazCheezburger family of sites, and Anonymous, the hacker group everybody loves to hate. Dozens of smaller sites such as Red 5 Studios and Errata Security will be shutting down as well. Even Wikipedia is considering a blackout.
Visits to any of the many entries on Wikipedia no longer smack the reader in the forehead with giant banner ads asking for handouts. The annual fundraising effort is over, but not before Jimmy Wales and Co. raised a whopping $20 million to keep Wikipedia afloat. It was the Wikimedia Foundation's most successful campaign ever, in which more than a million donors reached into their wallets and PayPal accounts.
Wikipedia is not alone among Internet companies in its steadfast opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Although being one of the most visited sites on the planet, and the sole reason many degree programs were completed, gives it some additional clout. Founder Jimmy Wales is mulling a plan to blank out Wikidedia in protest of SOPA in the near future.
Visit any Wikipedia page and you'll see at the top a big, bold font personal appeal from site founder Jimmy Wales who once again is asking for handouts. His plea starts off by letting visitors know Wikipedia is the No. 5 website in the world, serving 454 million people each month and dishing out billions of page views. Maintaining its modest army of 400 servers and 95 staff costs money, and advertising has no place on Wikipedia, Wales says. As for your cash, well, that's a different story.
Wikipedia. It’s so substantial and all-encompassing that it could kind of be considered a repository for the collective knowledge of our species. Since it’s all ones and zeros stored on servers around the world, there’s no threat of it burning down like the ancient Library at Alexandria did – at least not physically. Digital law can still bring it crashing down. The Italian version of Wikipedia is currently offline due to a law being proposed by the Italian Parliament that could have serious repercussions on Wikipedia – and all free speech – in that country.
Here's a challenge if you're looking to kill some time. Look up a topic on Google -- any topic -- and see if Wikipedia doesn't make the front page. This isn't exactly an impossible mission, but by and large, Wikipedia makes its presence known nearly every time we search for something, which is partially the result of an army of volunteers adding and editing content on everything under the sun. But what would happen to Wikipedia if it was suddenly starved for writers?