As illustrated in the xkcd comic above, Wikipedia has had an enormous impact on many web users. A contributing factor to their success in the more recent years, may be attributable to how visible their pages are in organic searches.
Google has been long reputed to favour Wikipedia content in their SERPs. However, recently Search Engine Watch established that (albeit by a narrow margin), Bing is even more likely than Google to return a Wikipedia page organically.
Personally, I find it completely unsurprising that Wikipedia articles would dominate organic rankings:
- Their URLs are easy to hack: I often go directly to the topic I wish by crafting the URL, and they also have extensive redirects in place, allowing me to reach the desired content even if my guess wasn't the canonical term.
- They make an effort to police their content to minimize bias and conjecture.
- Many of its pages are updated frequently, again with the power of crowd-sourcing.
- The writing quality is also monitored (to varying extents of effectiveness).
- They have extensive and logical internal linking conventions.
- Many external sites (this blog included!) link into their content as a matter of course.
- They have a .org domain.
The combination of the above (and doubtless, more criteria that my brief brainstorming didn't capture) make it an ideal candidate to rank well in search engine indices. I also find it especially appealing to compare different language articles that cover the same topics, since these often reflect the general levels of interest, and more interestingly the differences which are partially attributable to cultural values.
Below is one last thought (of many xkcd strips devoted to Wikipedia), which resonates with me quite well. I've been known to pointedly avoid looking at the start page, since so many of the topics it showcases suddenly seem fascinating, despite my not having given most of them much thought ever before.