Will Everipedia Bring Respectability Back to the World of Online Encyclopedias?14th February 2019
Everipedia, an extended fork of Wikipedia, is a blockchain-based encyclopedia that returns integrity and democratization to its subjects on the internet.
Britannica, Encarta, and Wikipedia — the three main digital encyclopedias of our time, have — in combination — provided us with an abundance of information and knowledge.
Having been around for over 244 years, Britannica contained over 100,000 articles along with Merriam-Webster’s U.S. Dictionary and Thesaurus, but cost a fortune. It set the stage for competitors like Encarta (now discontinued) and Wikipedia to take the stage. Wikipedia has certainly become the most dominant alternative to the Britannica.
Here we are: in the 21st century, sitting in front of a plethora number of black mirrors, screens, and electronic devices collecting and archiving as much information as possible.
Cost, format, and accessibility.
The Legacy of Wikipedia
According to its project page, Wikipedia was constructed to benefit readers by acting as a free online encyclopedia, or comprehensive written compendium that contains information on all branches of knowledge. The goal of each article or page is to present a neutrally written summary of existing mainstream knowledge in a fair and accurate manner with a straightforward, “just-the-facts” style. Articles are required to have an encyclopedic style with a formal tone instead of essay-like, argumentative, promotional, or opinionated writing.
Its original founders, Jimmy Wales, and Larry Sanger (2002) envisioned a world in which every single person on the planet would be granted free access to the sum of all human knowledge.
Sanger, during his time with the company, wanted Wikipedia to be a reliable resource.
Back in 2001, Sanger dined with Ben Kovitz, and learned about web pages that were editable to anyone — wikis.
Sanger had the idea to use wikis to supplement Nupedia’s article-creation process, eventually becoming the company’s editor-in-chief. Nupedia was a free online encyclopedia, containing articles rigorously vetted and academically respected, built entirely by volunteers.
Sanger’s idea formulated and birthed what we now know as Wikipedia.
You’d think that after years of looking like an outdated search engine — while simultaneously being represented by academia and scholars as “unreliable” — the company would take serious strides to adapt to the digital age.
Universities and academic institutions expressly and implicitly warn students not to rely on citing or referencing Wikipedia in thesis papers, argumentative essays, or as an even foundational point of resource.
Eighteen years down the line, people are beginning to understand that Wikipedia has outlived its most basic purpose as outlined on its project page — providing reliably trusted information.
Today’s Treasure is Knowledge, and Knowledge Exists in Everipedia
As of January 2019, Everipedia has become the largest free English-language encyclopedia to ever exist, incorporating the 6 million+ entries contained on Wikipedia, plus original content.
Created by Sam Kazemian, Theodor Forselius, Mahbod Moghadam, the co-founder of lyrics annotation and media site Genius, and Larry Sanger, the former co-founder of Wikipedia, ‘Everipedia,’ the first-ever blockchain-based encyclopedia — and now a thriving competitor to Wikipedia.
According to Wikipedia, its content is governed by three core content policies: (1) neutral points of view, (2) verifiability, and (3) no original research.
Yet, to many, Wikipedia has become a danger zone of “fake news” and misinformation that cannot be corrected by anyone other than those on the company’s editing team.
#1: Maintaining Neutral Points of View
While still popularly used and looked at, Wikipedia isn’t shy of its public shortcomings — the Wiki database limits its pages to those that are considered to be “popular,” “public figures,” or those “important enough.”
In today’s political climate, free speech protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution couldn’t be more appropriate, and having editors on this glorified pedestal deciding what is worth listing and what isn’t, is outside of their jurisdiction. Sorry not sorry, you guys.
#2: Maintaining Information Integrity
For years, Wikipedia has made it implicitly known to the world that it really doesn’t care about authorship or the page’s subject. But why?
In the years since Moghadam and Sanger left their respective positions, they have come to agree on at least one fact — if history has shown anything, taking on Wikipedia is no easy task.
With registered users, almost anyone is able to go into a page and edit its content; making it very difficult for it to be changed back unless reported.
#3: Conducting Due Diligence with Research
Whether you’re a company executive, lawyer, entrepreneur, or necessary part to a moving piece, good research is everything. More importantly, doing your due diligence with respect to the information you present to others is a make or break in life. There doesn’t need to be any more fake news bullshit, because we’re all capable of verifying on our own what is true and what is not. But: encyclopedias and other research-friendly sites should be trusted to be reliable and complete, with truthful and accurate information.
Until now, there has been no startup that has attempted to or even come close to posing a threat to the online database giant.
Everipedia’s mission and team have provided a new level of positive threats that seek to bring the world of online information back to a respected and reliable atmosphere.
Positive Threat #1: The Blockchain Train
Unlike Wikipedia, anyone and anything can have a page on the Everipedia database.
IPFS Token Hosting
The most important distinction, according to Moghadam, between the two platforms is that Everipedia will be hosted and storing information via the Interplanetary File System (IPFS), making it almost impossible to censor content as certain outlets like Wikipedia face in countries like China, Turkey, Russia, etc.
Rewarding Users With “Internet Knowledge Currency”
Additionally, users are rewarded with the platform’s native token (IQ), or “internet knowledge currency” for creating valuable content, and not misleading information.
“The idea is the more IQ a user has, the smarter they are!” Moghadam emphasized. The company also told me it is planning to launch additional DApps using the token, such as IQ&A (a decentralized Quora), allowing users to eventually create knowledge anywhere on the internet.
Positive Threat #2: Larry Sanger’s Eye For Preserving Authorship
In 2002, Sanger left Wikipedia recognizing its “serious management problems” and “dysfunctional community”:
(1) The old Nupedia editorial system is broken.
It was Sanger’s idea to use Wiki software for his project that became Wikipedia.
“I was probably the first to understand what was going on at any sort of deep level, in no small part because policies I promoted are part of why it worked.”
(2) Experts Should Have Low-Moderate Control.
As Sanger has said many times before, experts should be given a moderate, low-key role, one commensurate with their moderate value to projects like Wikipedia.
“I think collaborative projects, such as this, should be governed democratically — I always have.”
(3) Articles and Edits Shouldn’t Require Prior Approval
While the company does not have a board of editors or an algorithm to review each and every page it publishes, the users themselves are given editorial power and are constantly on the lookout for improperly linked or referenced materials.
What makes Everipedia so hauntingly beautiful is that it did what nobody had the courage or ability to do — copying and forking Wikipedia’s articles to become the largest online English-language dictionary, allowing for the most powerful tool to remain with the page creator — authorship.
The entire philosophy behind open source software or platforms, according to Sanger, is that material should be “released early and released often.”
“My enthusiasm for that idea is why I proposed to create a wiki encyclopedia the very evening that I first learned about wikis.”
“Everything has authorship; there is no anonymity,” says Moghadam.
The company strives to give everyone fair recognition, even if they aren’t considered to be “public figures” or “popular,” whatever that means today.
“You have to be proud of what you write, and there is token staking, which makes spamming other users, very difficult. This is because there are no anonymous users; we know who everyone is. We don’t delete pages for being about the wrong gender or race; we are more concerned with content that is properly cited and referenced.”
(4) Sophistication Level of Content Isn’t Ripe Enough
The former Wiki co-founder also believes that the material Wikipedia does post, just doesn’t go deeply enough into many of the topics that are deemed important to scholars and other professional academia.
“Wikipedia deletes far too many articles…and after I left, the ‘deletionists’ won; I’ve always been an ‘inclusionist.’”
Although joining the company in October 2017, Sanger’s involvement didn’t become public until December 2017, when he announced his role as the company’s chief information officer (CIO).
Positive Threat #3: Brock Pierce’s Theory of Tokenization
Solidifying the strength and force Everipedia brings to the world of information is the godfather of cryptocurrency, Brock Pierce. Pierce, a former child actor, most notably from The Mighty Ducks, and the chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, for all intents and purposes, changed the very strategy that is now Everipedia’s biggest sell.
In early 2017, Moghadam sent Pierce the following Facebook message — “Yo, Brock, Everipedia should do an ICO!”
“You should tokenize.”
Little did Kazemian and the Everipedia team know that turning the project into its own cryptocurrency, or token, would set the stage for performances Wikipedia could never put on. By decentralizing this online encyclopedia, information could be made fully accessible in countries like Russia and China it would be typically censored.
When I asked Pierce why he suggested tokenization, he told me that adding an economic model to the open-source movement would help establish Everipedia as a superior product and resource to Wikipedia:
“Looking back at Wikipedia, it is one of the most important websites on the internet, though it looks like it’s from the 1990’s,” Pierce said. The reason for its old-school design is because it’s a non-profit, and typically in such scenarios, the team behind it isn’t quite large enough.
“Like most open-source projects, it relies entirely on free contributors,” he explained.
“The reason why open-source software hasn’t taken off in a huge way in over 20 years, even though we all recognize it’s a superior model, is because of a lack of economic incentives. People can only work on open-source projects in their free time, as they have to have their day jobs and have to make money. […] What the Blockchain and tokenization is doing is adding an economic model to the open-source movement, meaning today you can make more money working on open-source projects than you can working at Google or Facebook. So, if you tokenize the a system like Wikipedia, you should be able to create a system where the users — the contributors, are able to participate in the economic benefits of that platform, incentivizing them to continue creating content. And because of that model, that system should be a superior product to Wikipedia.”
Leave the Internet to Wikipedia, and Let the Blockchain Run Everipedia
Ultimately, the team took Pierce’s suggestion to heart, leaving the internet to Wikipedia, and turning to the Blockchain for Everipedia.
Specifically, the team would adopt a system similar to Steemit, which would allow for users to create a page in exchange for the user putting up tokens. All an incentive to create and manage content, properly.
Everipedia has most certainly hit the ground running, showing the Wikipedia community that it means business.
Currently, Everipedia hosts over 7,000 people who help contribute to the editing and creation of the website.
Will Everipedia Bring Respectability Back to the World of Online Encyclopedias? was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.