Wikipedia co-founder: we're losing contributors

By on August 4, 2011, 2:00 PM

Wikipedia, which is run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, is starting to lose contributors. The multilingual online encyclopedia with over 19 million articles needs the volunteers to write and edit its articles in order to stay relevant, both in terms of content and as an important online resource.

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales revealed the critical tidbit of information during Wikimania, the website's annual conference in Haifa, Israel. In an attempt to retain volunteers, administrators of the Internet's fifth most visited website are working to simplify the way users can contribute and edit material.

"We are not replenishing our ranks," Wales told the Associated Press. "It is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important." In regards to the current system, he said: "A lot of it is convoluted. A lot of editorial guidelines ... are impenetrable to new users."

This is the first time the 10-year-old website has publicly acknowledged that its number of contributors is declining. Previously, the organization insisted that the number of active editors on the site was stable.

Wikipedia has been frequently criticized for having an unnecessarily complex editor with an arcane markup language. Tech-savvy individuals can often figure it out rather quickly, but most other users become overwhelmed and just give up.

Wikipedia has been working on simplifying its tools for quite some time now. There has been talk of a WYSIWYG editor that can be easily picked up by everyone, but it has yet to materialize.

Another possibility for the decreasing number of contributors is the belief that most articles have already been written and are more or less complete. As a result, fewer users may feel the need to help the project grow. Wikipedia is aiming to have 1 billion users and 200,000 editors by 2015.

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