Chances are, if you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve visited Wikipedia. It is the world’s fifth largest website, pulling in an estimated 6.1 billion followers per month and serves as a cheat sheet for almost any topic in the world. So great is the online encyclopaedia’s influence is so great that it is the biggest and “most read reference work in history”, with as many as 56 million editions.
But the truth about this supposedly neutral purveyor of information is a little more complex. Historically, Wikipedia has been written and monitored by a community of volunteers who collaborated and contested competing claims with one another. In the words of Wikipedia’s co-founder, Larry Sanger who spoke to Freddie Sayers on LockdownTV, these volunteers would “battle it out”.
This battle of ideas on Wikipedia’s platform formed a crucial part of the encyclopaedia’s commitment to neutrality, which according to Sanger, was abandoned after 2009. In the years since, on issues ranging from Covid to Joe Biden, it has become increasingly partisan, primarily espousing an establishment viewpoint that increasingly represents “propaganda”. This, says Sanger, is why he left the site in 2007, describing it as “broken beyond repair”.
A decentralized blockchain project has launched a new contest as it vies to build the next Wikipedia.
Free TON says the current rules and social mechanics of Wikipedia actively discourage people from making a contribution — and all this means the community is much smaller than it potentially could be. Because of this, the site misses out on experienced potential contributors who could have added valuable knowledge.
These are just a few of the issues that Free TON wants to resolve in their Freecyclopedia contest. They also want to address the issue that Wikipedia lacks detailed statistics for analysis — despite the fact that every edit performed on a page is logged. A dearth of such data means that decision-making is based on individual experience and the personal bias of old-timers and administrators. With the main focus on fair and community-driven involvement, the project offers Byzantine Fault Tolerance Governance (BFTg), ensuring the decentralization of the future platform.
There can also be uneven coverage of topics because most people don’t contribute to articles that lie outside of their interests, meaning that there needs to be an effort to ensure communities focus their efforts on underdeveloped pages.
Free TON also claims that the minimum standards for article quality on Wikipedia are low — and many are poorly written, incorrect or outdated. It also claims that the platform takes editorial work for granted, and writers should be better rewarded for their contributions.