As we all know by now, Wikipedia has turned 10. Initially scoffed at, and still serving as a bellwether of Internet acceptance, this major reference work has become indispensable in just 10 years, clearly surpassing — on a global, multilanguage scale — the size, depth, scope, and readership of any encyclopedia ever created by humans.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s an encyclopedia that is improvable — in fact, it likely improves every day, either through corrections, updates with current information, or additional references.
An essay worth reading about this amazing achievement — really, it is an amazing invention — is to be found in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay. Most interestingly from an innovation perspective is the correct observation of the essay’s author, Casper Grathwohl, that:
. . . it functions as a necessary layer in the Internet knowledge system, a layer that was not needed in the analog age.
Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense. It has redefined the reference work itself, and created a new reference layer — one for specialists and generalists alike, a great democratization of information.