My Gut Feeling on Wikipedia

I predict Wikipedia will change soon.

I don't mean it will change in the next two milliseconds because of some edit, either. I have a feeling that it will change significantly, sometime in the next... two years, maximum.

Now, if a completely random sample of all the people who use the internet visited this blog, a very good portion of you will have used Wikipedia. Since the sample isn't random, though, and the selection of those visiting the Publisher must surely be biased towards English speakers as well as - probably - people given to looking up random things, I would say that an even greater percentage of you have used Wikipedia. With this in mind, I will guess that you probably saw within the last few weeks the message banners that went across every Wikipedia page, asking for money, bearing assorted pictures of Jimmy Wales, with whose face we are now all uncomfortably familiar.

Now, it may very well be that Wikipedia does this fundraising every year, and I have seen these "appeals" in the past, but at the same time this seemed to be something new. For one thing, it seemed like the message was around for much longer (though it has gone away now) - and it also seemed more serious, even more desperate than before, especially with all the crazy pictures. The eyes of Jimmy Wales looked out onto you pleadingly... and you probably didn't think for a second about giving money.

At the same time, I do see other changes. For one thing, it seems Wikipedia is getting better sourced. It is constantly gaining new articles and also becoming available in more languages for more articles. Very very gradually, I think it is gaining more legitimacy in academics as well; it certainly is used by the vast majority of students, myself included, for topics regarding our studies - and despite how much I think I can figure out when something written on the wiki is fishy or not, I probably have believed many things told to me by Wikipedia that are indeed not true.

Wikipedia shows up everywhere. I've looked up some topics recently where the first hit on Google was Wikipedia, and then the next dozen hits were all sites that set up copies of Wikipedia information with ads all around it.

Ultimately, I just cannot expect Wikipedia to retain the hegemony it currently possesses. In this ever-expanding internet, alternatives to the site are springing up constantly, and the structure of Wikipedia may even be copied to create something bigger, better and more popular. I don't have a whole lot of evidence, but I have a very strong gut feeling that Wikipedia will change soon: it could shut down, begin advertising, get bought up by someone else or simply lose its privileged position in the web's current balance of power. No matter what it is, I think something is just bound to happen.

[Update: Jimmy Wales seems to have reappeared with his appeals. My suspicions continue.]