What is a Wiki?
Ask five different people about the definition of a wiki and there will be five different answers. Everyone has their own idea about what a wiki is and does. But the reality is a bit simpler.
A wiki is software designed to handle complicated problems with straightforward solutions.
Where Did Wiki Originate?
The first wiki goes back to WikiWikiWeb in 1995, which was designed by Ward Cunningham and Bo Leuf. Their idea centered around a collaborative website that an entire community could help to build and maintain.
Most of the initial wikis were created for a specific purpose. Whether it was providing information, detailing a series of events a list or assembling an online community, the goal was to create a simple website that could provide all this information. The fact that communities could edit those websites was even better.
Now there are so many wikis that it can be hard to keep up. Search for any book, popular concept, television show or movie and you may find a wiki about it. Most of these wikis are created and maintained by enthusiastic members of the respective communities.
Why Are Wikis So Useful?
Now that we have established the basics of a wiki, it is important to see why it is so popular.
Wikis are so useful because they are so simple to edit. There is no complicated backdoor or privileged access that a person must get if they want to make edits. It is as simple as clicking on the edit button and making an edit. When the changes are made, they are submitted and instantly incorporated onto the site.
Some may wonder about what happens if a mistake is made while editing a Wiki. Is the previous version lost forever? It is not! Another great feature in wikis is how they are able to keep a record of the different versions of pages. If the latest version of the page was incorrectly edited, it is possible to roll back to the previous version.
Creating New Pages is Easy
The simple editing of wikis is not limited to pages that are already present. It is also very easy to create a new page in a wiki.
There are also numerous ways to structure the different pages that make up a wiki site. There is no rigid categorization method that must be followed, which is very helpful for communities that may not want to follow a set of rules.
Issues with Wikis
While wikis are wonderful ways for communities to create pages to collect and expand on known information, they do have their issues. These problems are apparent on the most famous wikis too – such as Wikipedia.
Anyone can edit a wiki page. It means that people can add misinformation to the page, either as a joke or with malicious intent. While the information is easily changeable, it is still present for some time and can create a false impression for readers.
While wikis do have their issues, they are a force for good online. They make it easy for communities to create sites they care about, maintain those sites and grow them as time passes.