Today marks the first time somebody sent me a link to a “simple” Wikipedia article. Up until now this was completely unknown territory for me, so I couldn’t resist the urge to browse through it. It’s currently quite small compared to the normal English version of Wikipedia; there are 55000 articles and 129000 “pages”.

wikipedia_simple

From what I’ve seen so far, the main audience are (or rather, are supposed to be) children and people that are still learning English. This makes for some funny changes compared to the “real” Wikipedia:

  • There are, apparently, “new changes“. Somehow that’s supposed to be easier to comprehend than “recent changes“. 
  • I’m sure that every child has heard the word “donation“, but instead of donating you can “give” to Simple Wikipedia. 
  • On the other hand, I doubt younger children know how to “cite this page“. 
  • And seriously, I know you can make a short article longer. You can also make a long article longer. Or shorter. 

article_shorter_longer

But in the end the content itself is what really matters; and the selection of articles that I’ve looked at do provide useful content in an easy-to-read format. The real question will be which one of the Wikipedia’s will be the most popular in a couple of years.

Following the reasoning behind the Wikipedia project, the simple version should eventually win in terms of quality and amount of articles. Wikipedia is based on the concept that the more people contribute to a page, the better the quality will be; and by making articles simpler, more people should be able to understand them and contribute their knowledge. Which might eventually prove both proponents and critics right: the first because there will be more knowledge available to more people, and the second because it will be “dumbed down” so far that the quality of the articles suffers. 

Another interesting thing to follow will be the relative popularity of Google Knol versus Simple Wikipedia. According to Google, Knol is about the same size as “SimplePedia”. Both are also relatively new, with a small user base, and both benefit from carrying a familiar brand. Right now it looks as though Google Knol is taking the lead in terms of pageviews, but Wikipedia is leading if you look at the length of an average visit.