Wikipedia sister Wikia undergoes major redesign

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Image caption,
There is a wiki devoted to Lady GaGa

Wikia - the for-profit site created by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales - gets its biggest design overhaul since its launch in 2004.

It aims to combine the best features of the social web with the collaborative publishing tools used by Wikipedia.

Wikia's two million registered users have created over 165,000 wikis since the site was launched.

They range from cult TV shows to genealogy and from recipes to vintage patterns.

Founder Jimmy Wales said he wanted to re-invent wikis to be simple and easy for all to use in an effort to encourage more people to contribute articles.

He made the announcement about "Wiki 2.0" as part of his opening keynote at the Digital Hollywood Content Summit in New York.

"The intention is to reach out beyond the traditional core of people who are involved in Wikia and get in more people editing on a wider range of diverse topics.

"Traditionally what we saw in the early days was entertainment and gaming wikis but primarily steeped in geek culture with the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek. We are now seeing the trend in the direction of Twilight with a heavy skew to females and we want to continue in this direction.

"Wikia is a tool for everyone in society to participate and share in and not just the traditional geek," Mr Wales told BBC News.

Wikia chief executive officer Gil Penchina said some of the newly popular topics prove there is an appetite to open up Wikia.

"With emerging topics like vintage dress patterns, Japanese recipes and genealogy, we've seen a 500% increase in people wanting to create a new wiki and a double digit increase in viewers due to increased social sharing."


The social element and the way people share using Facebook and Twitter have contributed heavily to Wikia's redesign.

Image caption,
Popular Facebook game Farmville also has its own wiki

The new changes mean the growing use of such social tools will let users share their edits and contributions with friends.

Real-time streams, polls, top 10 lists and achievement badges are being added to ramp up user engagement and make the site more fun to use.

Photos and videos are being given greater prominence on content pages as well as in search results.

The redesign will also allow for improved content editing via an easy-to-use visual editor. And top editors will be highlighted to increase accountability and allow readers to see who created the content and learn more about them.

Mr Wales said making Wikia more social would not destroy the essence of the site, which is to dig deep into a topic and voice opinion.

That is in contrast to Wikipedia which aims to remain neutral and is expected to be based on fact.

"People are sharing all kinds of information through Facebook and Twitter but in the wiki world, what we are really about is in-depth discussions, dialogue and debate," said Mr Wales.

"If you imagine the climax of a popular TV show, people might tweet about it but on a wiki they will theorise and discuss it. It's all part of that deep knowledge-sharing that exists on Wikia."

The future

Wikipedia was started in 2001 and to date has nearly 3.5 million articles, but Mr Wales said a lot more work remained to be done.

Number one on his agenda is to see other language versions of the online encyclopaedia, he says.

"We have a long way to go certainly and we are far from done. There is still an amazing amount of work to do certainly in terms of focusing on the languages of the developing world or the global south as I call it.

"There are 280m native Hindi speakers and we only have 50 to 55,000 articles. That is great but not nearly as good as it could be," said Mr Wales.

Last month Wikipedia announced plans to open an office in India, its first outside the US.

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