I can’t exactly remember what I was looking for at the time but somehow last week I managed to come across what can only be described as a remarkable website pretty much by accident. The site in question is the comprehensive online encyclopaedia Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) which is a non profit site written primarily by reader input and funded by user donations.

Wikipedia was started back in January 2001 and this September announced that in this short space of time that the 1 millionth article had already been added to its database. For those interested where the site gets its’ name from, I will explain that curious name comes about as ‘Wiki’ is the software used by the contributors when they write the articles that are then added to the database.

When I first discovered this page I started testing by typing in the most random words and subjects for it to search for and each time it prevailed by presenting me with some relevant information to take a look at. Whilst the majority of these 1 million articles are very well written, comprehensive and relevant, a few of the more obscure articles do meander off the point slightly which gives you the impression that they were written in several minutes flat.

When viewing a specific topic you will find that the article is nicely structured into appropriate headings and subheadings as well as links to further reading sources present on both internal and external sites. Any technical terms used in the write-ups are hyperlinked so that you can simply click on them and it will be cross linked to a different area of the encyclopaedia that will explain their meaning to you.

The landing page that you view when browsing the site includes a number of interesting links to take you to articles about items currently in the news, featured articles of the day as well as details of events happened this day many years ago. These features make the encyclopaedia more interesting to view as it means that you can use it not only for looking up specific areas that interest you but also it can be used on a daily basis more out of interest sakes than for a specific purpose.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article the site is funded by user donations and not by advertising so you don’t have intrusive adverts popping up whilst you browse. Donating isn’t mandatory however, and their suggestions that you might like to make a payment are very discreet so you could use the site every day and never pay a penny although if you do find it a useful resource it may be worthwhile donating a small amount to ensure that it continues growing.

If you take a look around you will also find links to sister sites also operated by ‘Wikimedia’ and such sites include an online dictionary & thesaurus, a site offering free textbooks and manuals and one offering a collection of quotations; again all sites are operated by users for users as opposed to being bankrolled by a large corporate company. These are all certainly worth a look.

To conclude this article, the Internet is often a very confusing place to find relevant information and although search engines such as Google use advanced algorithms to try and ensure you get relevant information from your searches, this isn’t always apparent. An online encyclopaedia such as this really does organise such a vast amount of information very well and the fact that such a site is maintained by users on a non profit basis is commendable. All students should keep this site bookmarked as it will no doubt become invaluable in homework assignments and further reading but also many home users would benefit from visiting once in a while to look up those curious questions that we all want the answer to every once in a while.

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