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The Wikipedia/Britannica Debate

Mar - 27 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

Back in December there was a lot of news coverage regarding an article in Nature magazine that stated that both Wikipedia and Britannica had a similar number of errors. Well Britannica has replied with a 20 page report (which I have not read all of – for reasons already stated – I’m way behind)

In its December 15, 2005, issue, the science journal Nature published an article that claimed to compare the accuracy of the online Encyclop√¶dia Britannica with Wikipedia, the Internet database that allows anyone, regardless of knowledge or qualifications, to write and edit articles on any subject. Wikipedia had recently received attention for its alleged inaccuracies, but Nature’s article claimed to have found that “such high-profile examples [of major errors in Wikipedia] are the exception rather than the rule” and that “the difference in accuracy [between Britannica and Wikipedia] was not particularly great.”

I don’t know about you – but to me it sounds like Britannica is a little miffed. Apparently they called for Nature to pull the article and Nature has declined stating that “We reject those accusations, and are confident our comparison was fair.”

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One Response so far.

  1. Dan says:

    The comparisons between Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia are very interesting.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica never thought that an open source product like Wikipedia would seriously challenge the credibility of its brand. They were wrong and Encyclopaedia Britannica’s staff seriously misread the global market. They are now very concerned about the widespread use of a free Wikipedia vs their paid subscription model. Industry analysis shows that the accuracy of both encyclopedic databases is similar.

    It is interesting that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is developing a new search engine. It is the combination of a) improved search engines and b) the success of Wikipedia that has put financial pressure on Encyclopedia Britannica over recent years. Many institutions and individuals are questioning the need to pay to subscribe to Encyclopaedia Britannica when the content is free on the internet. Google even has free direct links to Encyclopaedia Britannica’s main database !!


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