Monday, December 17, 2007

Google vs. Wikipedia

Probably the two most-commonly-used websites by members of my family, including me, are now going to compete against each other. Or maybe there's room for both.

Google is a search engine, and a source for ad revenue. It's also a verb. I actually said this the other day: "Go to YouTube and Google [whatever it was I was talking about searching for]." I couldn't believe it. You Google things at Google, and while YouTube features a search field, you don't Google there. But it's become a verb meaning search, in general, in a surprisingly short time.

Wikipedia is an online, user-written encyclopedia. Schools usually won't let you use this as a source (though they often let you use other web pages; this is a subject I need to table till another time), but you can often get surprisingly accurate and complete information from Wikipedia. Users correct and add to what other users write. The problem comes when controversial topics arise, or when someone has something to gain, like winning an election. Then false information is sometimes posted. But since you're supposed to cite references when you write an article on Wikipedia, it should be mostly accurate.

In our family, we've found Wikipedia helpful mostly for pop culture information. Want to know all about how the Nancy Drew series were not written by a woman named Carolyn Keene, like I believed when I was growing up? Check out Wikipedia. Want to know all of the titles of every episode of the TV show NCIS? Check out Wikipedia. Want to know about all of the times characters or items from one Pixar movie have a cameo on another Pixar movie? Check out Wikipedia.

I already use these two sites side-by-side. I have an extension in Firefox called Googlepedia. When I use Google to search, the search results come up on the left-hand side, and the best match Wikipedia article comes up on the right-hand side. Sometimes the match is very far off (usually when I'm searching using several terms) and sometimes it's exactly what I'm looking for. There's definitely room for both of them in this world.

The Google encyclopedia will be different from Wikipedia. First, each article will be authored by a person with a name, and no one else can edit it, though they can review and comment on it, I guess. So, you'll have to wade through a bunch of comments to see if the info in the article is true or not. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Second, there will be ads. In fact, authors of articles will receive a substantial portion of the ad revenue for an article. Again, that could be a good thing or a bad thing.

I would guess that there will be room for both of these things. I hope so, anyway. I like them both, and I don't really want either of them to go away.

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