Encarta bit by Wikipedia: Another triumph for Web 2.0

Microsoft announces the closure of Encarta later this year after losing ground over the years to freely available reference material on the Internet and on web sites like Wikipedia.

“People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past,”

the software maker said in a notice posted on its MSN website. As described in a Bits blog, the Wiki-dominance is so far-reaching that it got 97% of the visits that Web surfers in the U.S. made to online encyclopaedias, while Encarta was second with 1.27%.

Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopaedias and reference material has changed. Now Encarta itself has fallen victim to changes in technology. Well, it looks like Wikipedia is here to stay without strong rivals on the net, the question is for how long?

The plug will be officially pulled in October of this year but Microsoft will also stop selling the Encarta products by June. RIP Encarta 1993 – 2009.


The Cult of the Amateur

Last night’s Newsnight had a feature about the problems of user generated content (watch again online today). It featured “The Cult of the Amateur” by Andrew Keen from the Newsnight Book Club and they were interviewing him along with Charles Leadbeater representing the opposing view.

Before the debate, they had a short video about the problems of Web 2.0, with Gavin Esler appearing to show a problem with some Wikipedia pages. Notice that it was three months ago and each time the page was vandalised it was fixed within minutes. They also created a fake Facebook profile for Alistair Darling – dubious reporting at best.

There are some valid points that a lot of content is pretty bad, and there are issues with regards to accountability and reliability of information (On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog) but these problems have always been the around with all media. The internet is a great leveller and massively reduces the barriers to entry for publishing, but that doesn’t mean everyone is treated equally. Everyone is free to build their own reputation based on their actions and words, and as Guido Fawkes proved before he was “outed” by the Guardian, you can even be anonymous.