From Free net encyclopedia

Wikipedia also has its own article. screenshot.pngWelcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.

Begun in 2001, Wikipedia has rapidly grown into the largest reference website on the Internet. The content of Wikipedia is free, written collaboratively by people from all around the world. This website is a wiki, which means that anyone with access to an Internet-connected computer can edit, correct, or improve information throughout the encyclopedia, simply by clicking the edit this page link (with a few minor exceptions, such as protected articles and the main page).

Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which has created an entire family of wiki projects. On Wikipedia, and its sister projects, you are welcome to be bold and edit articles yourself, contributing knowledge as you see fit in a collaborative way.

In every article, links will guide you to associated articles, often with additional information. You are welcome to add further information, cross-references, or citations, so long as you do so within Wikipedia's editing policies and to an appropriate standard. You do not need to fear accidentally damaging Wikipedia when you add or improve information, as other Wikipedeans are always around to advise or correct obvious errors if needed, and the Wikipedia encyclopedia software, known as Mediawiki, is carefully designed to allow easy reversal of editorial mistakes.

Because Wikipedia is an ongoing work to which in principle anybody can contribute, it differs from a paper-based reference source in some very important ways. In particular, older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles may still contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Users need to be aware of this in order to obtain valid information and avoid misinformation which has been recently added and not yet removed. (See Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia for more details).

If you have not done so before, we invite you to take a few moments to read What Wikipedia is (and is not) and Researching with Wikipedia, so that you have an understanding of how to use, rely upon or contribute to Wikipedia as you continue. Further information on a variety of key topics can be found below.

Happy browsing!

See also: Wikipedia:Welcome, newcomers.
For help topics, questions and contact information, see Help:Contents.
For news about the site, see Wikipedia:News.


Wikipedia information is free for anyone to use


Wikipedia contributions are voluntarily given under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which applies the legal principle known as copyleft, a way of using the copyright process to prevent information being controlled by any one person, to ensure it remains freely accessible forever.

All of the information in Wikipedia is free for anyone to copy, modify for their own purposes, and redistribute or use as they see fit, as long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges the authors of the Wikipedia article used (a credit or backlink to the original article is sufficient for this). For full information see the copyright page or the text of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Making the best use of Wikipedia

Exploring Wikipedia


Many visitors come to this site to acquire knowledge, others to share knowledge. In fact, at this very instant, dozens of articles are being improved. You can view the changes at the Recent changes page. New articles are also being recorded. Many different kinds of people help to write Wikipedia articles.

Wikipedia also has many ongoing projects. The hope of any contributor is to provide useful and accurate information to others, and the projects help coordinate efforts. Most articles start as stubs, but after many contributions, they can become featured articles.

If you can't find what you are looking for, see Where to ask questions for a list of departments where our volunteers answer questions, any question you can possibly imagine.

Once you've determined that there is no article on Wikipedia on a topic you are interested in, you may want to request the article be written (or you could even research the issue and write it yourself).

You can also view random articles.

You might also enjoy reading Wikipedia in other languages. Wikipedia has more than a hundred different languages (see other language versions), including a Simple English version, and related projects include a dictionary, quotations, books, manuals and scientific reference sources, and a news service (see sister projects). All of these are maintained, updated and managed by separate communities, and often include thought-provoking information and articles which can be hard to find through other common sources.

Basic navigation in Wikipedia


Wikipedia articles are all linked, or cross-referenced. Wherever you see highlighted text like this, it means there is a link to some relevant article or Wikipedia page with further in-depth information elsewhere if you need it. Holding your mouse over the link will often show you where a link will take you. You are always one click away from more information on any point that has a link attached.

There are other links towards the ends of most articles, for other articles of interest, relevant external web sites and pages, reference material, and organized categories of knowledge which you can search and traverse in a loose hierarchy for more information.

Some articles may also have links to dictionary definitions, audio-book readings, quotations, or the same article in other languages.

You can add further links if a relevant link is missing, and this is one way to contribute.

Using Wikipedia as a research tool

Main articles: Researching with Wikipedia, Citing Wikipedia

As a wiki, articles are never complete. They are continually edited and improved over time, and in general this results in an upward trend of quality, and a growing consensus over a fair and balanced representation of information.

Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start. Indeed, many articles commence their lives as partisan, and it is after a long process of discussion, debate and argument, that they gradually take on a consensus form. Others may for a while become caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint which can take some time - months perhaps - to extricate themselves and regain a better balanced consensus.

In part, this is because Wikipedia operates an internal resolution process when editors cannot agree on content and approach, and such issues take time to come to the attention of more experienced editors.

The ideal Wikipedia article is balanced, neutral and encyclopedic, containing notable verifiable knowledge. An increasing number of articles reach this standard over time, and many already have. However this is a process and can take months or years to be achieved, as each user adds their contribution in turn. Some articles contain statements and claims which have not yet been fully cited. Others will later have entire new sections added. Some information will be considered by later contributors to be insufficiently founded, and may be removed or expounded.

While the overall trend is generally upward, it is important to use Wikipedia carefully if it is intended to be used as a research source, since individual articles will, by their nature, vary in standard and maturity. There are guidelines and information pages designed to help users and researchers do this effectively.

Summary of strengths, weaknesses and article quality in Wikipedia

Wikipedia's greatest strengths, weaknesses and differences arise because it is open to anyone, has a large contributor base, and articles are written by consensus according to editorial guidelines and policies.

  • Wikipedia is open to a large contributor base - so it is less susceptible to retaining bias, is very hard for any group to censor, and is far more responsive to new information, especially information not widely known in the West, and it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked information later needing removal.
  • Wikipedia is written by consensus - so eventually for most articles, all notable views become fairly described and a very neutral stance can be achieved even on emotive subjects, and the reaching of consensus takes considerably longer than a simple drafting, and is occasionally made harder by extreme-viewpoint contributors. (Articles also tend to be more fluid or changeable for a long time compared to other reference sources until they find their "neutral approach" that all sides can agree on.)

Key strengths: (Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is so great)

  • Having a very large number of active writers and editors in many languages, Wikipedia often provides access and breadth on subject matter that is otherwise inaccessible or little documented.
  • Wikipedia often produces excellent encyclopedic articles and resources covering newsworthy events within hours or days of their occurrence.
  • Wikipedia is one of few sites even attempting neutral, objective, encyclopedic coverage of popular culture.
  • The Western-centric bias found in many Western publications is significantly reduced on Wikipedia.
  • In comparison with most web-based resources, Wikipedia's open approach tremendously increases the chances that any particular factual error or misleading statement will be relatively promptly corrected.
  • There is no one central point where censorship can be imposed, and therefore censorship by any given group, restriction to "officially reported" sources, or "pushing" of any particular viewpoint, whether official or unofficial, is difficult to achieve and almost always fails after a time.
  • In contrast with many web resources, information added to Wikipedia never "vanishes", and is never "lost" or deleted.

Key weaknesses: (Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is not so great)

  • Wikipedia's radical openness means that any given article may be, at any given moment, in a bad state, such as in the middle of a large edit, a controversial rewrite, or recently vandalized.
  • Wikipedia operates a full editorial dispute resolution process, that allows time for a discussion to be discussed and resolved in depth, but also permits months-long disagreements before poor quality or biased edits will be removed forcibly.
  • While blatant vandalism is usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, Wikipedia is more subject to subtle vandalism and viewpoint promotion than a typical reference work.
  • There is no systematic process to make sure that "obviously important" topics are written about, so Wikipedia may contain unexpected oversights and omissions.
  • Articles may be incomplete in ways that would be less usual in a more tightly controlled reference work, for example some aspects may be well covered but others briefly or not at all.
  • Many contributors do not yet comply fully with key policies, or may add information without citable sources.

Quality of information: (Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia)

While Wikipedia articles generally attain a good standard after editing, it is important to note that fledgling, or less well monitored, articles may be susceptible to vandalism and insertion of false information, although this usually ceases to be as significant a problem as articles mature. Inappropriate edits are often noticed and corrected within a relatively short time on most articles.
(See for example this 2005 incident [1] reported by the Boston Herald, resulting from a person who inserted a fake biography linking a prominent journalist to the Kennedy assassinations and Soviet Russia as a joke on a co-worker, saying afterwards he "didn’t know [Wikipedia] was used as a serious reference tool.")

How Wikipedia differs from a paper encyclopedia

Main article: Wikipedia is not paper



Content advisories can also be found here.

Contributing to Wikipedia

Main articles: Contributing to Wikipedia, First steps in editing articles, Bootcamp

Anyone can contribute to Wikipedia by clicking on the Edit this page tab in an article. Before beginning to contribute however, you should check out some handy helping tools such as the tutorial and the policies and guidelines, as well as our welcome page.

It is important to realize that in contributing to Wikipedia, users are expected to be civil and neutral, respecting all points of view, and only add verifiable and factual information rather than personal views and opinions. "The five pillars of Wikipedia" cover this approach and are recommended reading before editing.

Who writes Wikipedia?

Main article: Wikipedia:Who writes Wikipedia

There are tens of thousands of regular editors - everyone from expert scholars to casual readers. Anyone who visits the site can edit it, and this fact has encouraged contribution of a tremendous amount of content. There are mechanisms that help community members watch for bad edits, a few hundred administrators with special powers to enforce good behavior, and a judicial committee which considers the few situations remaining unresolved, and decides on withdrawal or restriction of editing privileges or other punishments when needed, after all other consensus remedies have been tried. The site is owned by the Wikimedia Foundation, which is largely uninvolved in daily operation and writing.

Editing Wikipedia pages

Main article, including list of common mark-up shortcuts: Wikipedia:How to edit a page

Wikipedia uses a simple yet powerful page layout to allow editors to concentrate on adding material rather than page design. These include automatic sections and subsections, automatic references and cross-references, image and table inclusion, indented and listed text, links ISBNs and math, as well as usual formatting elements and most world alphabets and common symbols. Most of these have simple formats that are deliberately very easy and intuitive.

Wikipedia has robust version and reversion controls. This means that poor quality edits or vandalism can quickly and easily be reversed or brought up to an appropriate standard by any other editors, so inexperienced editors cannot accidentally do permanent harm if they make a mistake in their editing. As there are many more editors intent upon good quality articles than any other kind, articles which are poorly edited are usually corrected rapidly.

Wikipedia content criteria

Template:Main Wikipedia content is intended to be factual, notable, verifiable with external sources, and neutrally presented, with external sources cited.

The appropriate policies and guidelines for these are found at:

  1. Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not summarizes what Wikipedia is, and what it is not.
  2. Wikipedia:Neutral point of view wikipedia's core approach, neutral unbiased article writing.
  3. Wikipedia:No original research what is, and is not, valid information
  4. Wikipedia:Verifiability what counts as a verifiable source and how a source can be verified
  5. Wikipedia:Citing sources sources should be cited, and the manner of doing so.

These can be abbreviated to WP:NOT, WP:NPOV, WP:NOR, WP:V, and WP:CITE respectively.

Handling disputes and abuse of process

Main articles: Wikipedia:Vandalism, Wikipedia:Dispute resolution, Wikipedia:Consensus, Wikipedia:Sock puppet

Wikipedia has a rich span of methods to handle most abuses which commonly arise, which are well tested and should be relied upon.

In addition, brand new users (until they have established themselves a bit) may at the start find that their votes are given less weight by editors in some informal polls, in order to prevent abuse of single purpose accounts.

About Wikipedia

Wikipedia history

Template:Details Wikipedia was founded as an offshoot of Nupedia, a now-abandoned project to produce a free encyclopedia. Nupedia had an elaborate system of peer review and required highly qualified contributors, but the writing of articles was seen as very slow. During 2000, Jimmy Wales, founder of Nupedia, and Larry Sanger, whom Wales had employed to work on the project, discussed various ways to supplement Nupedia with a more open, complementary project.

On the evening of January 2, 2001, Sanger had a conversation over dinner with Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer, in San Diego, California. Kovitz, who was a regular on "Ward's Wiki" (the WikiWikiWeb), explained the wiki concept to Sanger. Sanger saw that a wiki would be an excellent format whereby a more open, less formal encyclopedia project could be pursued. Sanger easily persuaded Wales, who had been introduced to the wiki concept previously, to set up a wiki for Nupedia, and Nupedia's first wiki went online on January 10.

There was considerable resistance on the part of Nupedia's editors and reviewers to the idea of associating Nupedia with a website in the wiki format, however, so the new project was given the name "Wikipedia" and launched on its own domain,, on January 15 (now humorously called "Wikipedia Day" by some users). The bandwidth and server (located in San Diego) were donated by Wales. Other current and past Bomis employees who have done some work on the encyclopedia include Tim Shell, one of the co-founders of Bomis and its current CEO, and programmer Jason Richey.

In May 2001, the first wave of non-English Wikipedias were launched (in Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, German, Esperanto, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish, soon joined by Arabic and Hungarian [2], [3]). In September, [4] a further commitment to the multilingual provision of Wikipedia was made. At the end of the year, when international statistics first began to be logged, Afrikaans, Norwegian, and Serbocroatian versions were announced. [5]

Wikipedia statistics

Main articles: Wikipedia:Statistics, Wikipedia:Size of Wikipedia

There are 13,000 active contributors working on over 3,800,000 articles in more than 100 languages. As of today, there are 0 articles in English; every day hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to enhance the amount of knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia. Visitors do not need any special qualifications to contribute, and people of all ages help to write Wikipedia articles.

All the text in Wikipedia, and most of the images and other content, is covered by the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Contributions remain the property of their creators, while the GFDL license ensures the content will remain freely distributable and reproducible (see the copyright notice and the content disclaimer for more information).

Behind Wikipedia

Wikipedia uses the Mediawiki software. It's an open-source program that is used on all Wikimedia projects.

The hardware supporting the various projects is based on almost 100 servers hosted in various hosting centers around the world. Full descriptions of the various servers are available on this meta page.

For technical information about Wikipedia, you can check Technical FAQs.


Category:Wikipedia culture contains a wealth of content about how Wikipedians see themselves and the project. You will find humor, essays, awards, and more.

Feedback and questions

Wikipedia itself is run as a communal effort. It is a community project whose end result is an encyclopaedia. Feedback about content should, in the first instance, be raised on the discussion pages of those articles. You are invited to be bold and edit the pages yourself to add information or correct mistakes if you are knowledgable and able to do so.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)


FAQ index: Index of all Wikipedia FAQ pages

Giving feedback

There is an established escalation and dispute process within Wikipedia, as well as pages designed for raising questions, feedback, suggestions and comments:

Also see:

Research help and similar questions

Facilities for help for users researching specific topics can be found at:

Because of the nature of Wikipedia, it's encouraged that people looking for information should try and find it themselves in the first instance. If however you come across valid information missing from Wikipedia, be bold and add it yourself so others can gain from your research too!

Community discussion

For specific discussion not related to article content or editor conduct, see the Village pump, which covers such subjects as news and announcements, policy and technical discussion, and information on other specialized portals such as the help, reference and peer review desks.

For other user discussion of Wikipedia in general, see Wikipedia:Community Portal.

Contacting individual Wikipedia editors

If you need more information, the first place to go is the Help:Contents. To contact individual contributors, leave a message on their talk page. Standard places to ask policy and project-related questions are the village pump, online, and the Wikipedia mailing lists, over e-mail. You can also reach other Wikipedians via IRC and instant messenger.

There is also a meta-Wikipedia, a site for coordinating the various Wikipedia projects (and abstract discussions of policy and direction), and there are many different places for submitting bug reports and feature requests.

For a full list of contact options, see: Wikipedia:Contact us.

Related versions and projects

Wikipedia versions in other languages

This is the English language Wikipedia. Started in 2001, it currently contains 0 articles. Wikipedias are also being written in many other languages:

Sister projects

Wikipedia is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that also hosts a range of other projects:

Dictionary and thesaurus

Free textbooks and manuals

Free-content news

Free-content library

Directory of species

Collection of quotations

Shared media repository

Wikimedia project coordination

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