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Britannica Goes After Wikipedia and Google

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the let-us-know-how-that-works-out-for-ya dept.

The Internet 385

kzieli writes "Britannica is going to allow viewers to edit articles, with changes to be reviewed by editors within 20 minutes. There is also a bit of a rant against Google for ranking Wikipedia above Britannica on most search terms."

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FIST SPORT (0, Flamebait)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559037)

Wikipedia is a sham anyway - if the truth doesn't appeal to the shadowy elite, it gets deleted.

FACTS, not "truth". (5, Funny)

computersareevil (244846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559107)

Wikipedia isn't interested in truth, only facts.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (5, Funny)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559167)

[Citation needed]

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (5, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559471)

As far as contributing to Wikipedia is concerned, it doesn't matter whether a piece of information is true or not. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth -- that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true. [wikipedia.org] If you want to say something in Wikipedia, you should be prepared to cite a reliable source verifying what you say. It doesn't matter if it's true and you just know it.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (5, Informative)

TeXMaster (593524) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559749)

You forgot the much more dangerous criteria of Notability [wikipedia.org] , which is a considerably more arbitrary filter on what can and what cannot be on Wikipedia, and has abundantly misused throughout its history.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (3, Interesting)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560091)

All kidding aside, Brittanica has a legitimate gripe - Wikipedia's height in the search rankings is due mostly to the fact that it's coded as a gigantic linkfarm.

The difference between Wikipedia and every other linkfarm out there, however, is that porn-peddler Wales managed to fob Wikipedia off as a "nonprofit" site, and convinced Google not to downgrade its linking weight according to the formula they use for all the other linkfarms out there. If not for this preferential treatment, wikipedia wouldn't show up nearly as high in search results.

And of course, it doesn't help anyone that wikipedia actively took steps in recent months to screw with others, such as implementing automatic nofollow on external links, thus making sure that inter-wikipedia links are the only links that get help by being listed there.

I'd love to see Google treat wikipedia like they treat everyone else. Won't happen, but it would mean Google would have more meaningful search results.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559657)

That's exactly the problem, and one which the Britannica guy doesn't get. I'm only minimally interested in what some expert at Britannica thinks is the right answer, and a bunch of citations back to the print version of their encyclopedia as justification is useless.

It's the plethora of sources in the Wikipedia articles that are most valuable. I know the Wikipedia article is a cobbled together opinion that might be worthless and even wrong. So what? I can read the cited sources and form my own opinion, an option which Britannica doesn't really offer. They think they are their own authority and that their readers can end their investigation there because of the high quality. Sorry, that's stupid. Real research doesn't work that way. The days of "proof by authority" are rapidly fading. "[Citation needed]" is the way that real science has always worked, and most other subjects. You figure it out for yourself by reviewing what has already been done, and you back up your claims. It isn't perfect, but it is much better than no citations or "because we're Britannica!"

Even if Britannica does pop up in Google's search results I usually don't bother looking, because I know it probably won't tell me anything I don't already know. Meanwhile the Wikipedia article probably cites the most relevant and recent papers, and maybe even has a link to a PDF of it or another relevant website. I can dig deeper. The citations are weak in Britannica.

Google's ranking is appropriate because it reflects the fact that people link to the Wikipedia articles more, probably because those articles really are more useful as a starting point for research.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559227)

Truth = facts, dumbass.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559415)

Truth = facts, dumbass.

Being an anonymous coward I doubt that you're nothing more than a troll, but truth != facts. You can tell the truth but still be wrong. Truth is only determined by what the person speaking knows whereas facts are universally true (that's what makes them facts.)

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560073)

I've never heard 'truth' used in that context. I've always heard it to mean universal too.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559539)

You obviously never heard of Gödel.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559693)

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559943)

Has anyone seen the irony of using wikipedia to prove something in a thread refuting wikipedia?

Just a thought.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (2, Informative)

dwarg (1352059) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560101)

Wooosh...

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (5, Insightful)

Saint Gerbil (1155665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559963)

I also looked it up on the Britannica website but it told me it was premium content and that I needed to sign up to view it (or at least not get annoying popups all the time).

Which is another reason (IMO)) why Wikipedia should appear higher than Britannica.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1)

sleigher (961421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559869)

Is your sig some sort of oxymoron?

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559583)

Truth = facts

Only on Wikipedia.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1)

Psilax (1297141) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559447)

Wikipedia is only intrested in input from user being it theire truth or true facts that's for the reader to determin and edit if necessairy.

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559979)

Er, I think there's a good portion of overlap there :P

Re:FACTS, not "truth". (1)

Tiber (613512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560201)

lol.

Wikipedia should be called "the encyclopedia of popular opinion".

Will slastdot follow Britannica (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559039)

And let people edit this precious first post ?

Re:Will slastdot follow Britannica (2, Funny)

Forge (2456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560065)

And let people edit this precious first post ?

Und lit paeple odet thes pressius frost poust ?

Thair. Hale fiksed.

Huh? (-1)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559043)

So they're effectively removing their only reason to be respected - articles reviewed by specialists?

Wow, I can't believe they don't see what's wrong with this decision.

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559121)

-1, Didn't Read the Article

The changes won't appear on the site until they have been reviewed by someone paid by Britannica.

They must really be on the ropes. They're into full-on me-tooism, but obviously don't get what makes Wikipedia awesome at all.

-Peter

Re:Huh? (4, Funny)

Xtense (1075847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559131)

Specialists editors.

Unless they plan to hire Stephen Hawking, i don't see how this is going to work.

Re:Huh? (3, Funny)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559279)

I was very careful in my word choice. But maybe I should have said, "Top men. [youtube.com] "

-Peter

Re:Huh? (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559845)

You realise of course that even though there isn't a formal expert review process at Wikipedia, the project is *loaded* with experts. You can barely move without tripping over a Ph.D. Hence Wikipedia's other name, "Unemployed Ph.D Death Match."

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559369)

but obviously don't get what makes Wikipedia awesome at all.

They aren't the only ones, one of the biggest selling points traditional encyclopedia's had was that they weren't wikipedia if they emulate it too closely they will disenfranchise that audience.

Anyone who is happy with the encyclopedic equivalent of lucky dip is already gushing about the 'awesomeness' of Wikipedia, they are not about to start helping elsewhere. Although perhaps some of the authors with genuine knowledge who have given up on Wikipedia's editfests might be interested in a more closely controlled equivalent.

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559397)

The changes won't appear on the site until they have been reviewed by someone paid by Britannica.

So... skilled editors in the field of question, or your basic "anti-vandalization basic fact-check" paid editors? This is not entirely unlike the way Wikipedia can lock or semi-lock some pages where it's necessary. With all due respect to the ways wikipedia isn't that great, there's no way wikipedia or britannica could afford an editor staff to check every edit on something of wikipedia's size. I guess they have to limit the scope of their user input process greatly, until it's basicly what it's already - a collection of traditional encyclopedic material that is no match for the versatility of wikipedia. Despite the notability trolls, wikipedia carries so much information on so much more of greater and lesser, particularly lesser, importance.

Re:Huh? (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559455)

I would wonder even HOW they plan to review changes. Aside from the sheer volume issue (Good morning editors, each of you will be reviewing 14,850 edits in the next 8 hours), there is also the question of exactly HOW they can practically review technical changes for accuracy, without a wide variety of specialists on staff. Are they going to phone up a physicist every time someone changes a few sentences on the "Quantum Mechanics" article? And how are they going to deal with academically debated topics? Wikipedia does it by democracy, basically. But, with editors, Britannica is now going to be faced with editors having to "choose sides" on debates which they know nothing about.

Re:Huh? (5, Funny)

lastchance_000 (847415) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559647)

They're going to look it up on Wikipedia.

Re:Huh? (4, Funny)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559923)

I would wonder even HOW they plan to review changes. Aside from the sheer volume issue... there is also the question of exactly HOW they can practically review technical changes for accuracy, without a wide variety of specialists on staff.

Wikipedia. Cross check with Google. Jeesh, this kind of research isn't rocket surgery any more.

Re:Huh? (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559137)

Starting in High School we were taught never to do research off an encyclopedia. You use it to get a general idea about the topic which will help guide you to more appropriate sources for your research.
Britannica has been putting themselves on the high ground when they really weren't so high up. While Britannnica may have better researched articles, however Wikipedia for the most part does a good job at what encyclopedias are good for. A way to get a basic understanding of the topic so you then can go further in and do some real research.

Re:Huh? (1)

scientus (1357317) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559461)

and then teachers jelous that people who havnt spent there life sucking up for tenure can edit and create a good encyclopedia, ban it

Re:Huh? (4, Informative)

The Cisco Kid (31490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559527)

Of course whats handy about wikipedia is that it almost always includes a good handful of links (and often meatspace citations as well) that makes it very easy to dig right into that additional research.

Re:Huh? (2, Interesting)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559559)

So true. The first step whenever I start researching something is almost always a Wikipedia search, and it just branches off from there. Works better than just picking links at random from a Google search.

Re:Huh? (1)

Forge (2456) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560085)

RTFA.

They said these changes would only be visible online after being vetted by internal or contract editors.

You still just don't get it (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559055)

Well Jorge, first of all you take a swipe at Google for respecting the very encyclopedia that you yourself are tacitly acknowledging is at least somewhat superior (by imitating it). Then you show just how PROFOUNDLY out of touch you are by insisting that your changes will require editorial review (unless you're about to expand your editorial staff with thousands of new hires, you must not be expecting much participation).

Sorry, but this is just pathetic. If this is the best you can do online, just stick with what you do best (the printed page). Admittedly, Brittanica has always been a great source for academic quality articles, especially back when basic information was hard to come by. But this sort of half-hearted effort only highlights just how much you still don't "get it."

Re:You still just don't get it (4, Informative)

Taevin (850923) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559201)

His swipe at Google also highlights the difference between Wikipedia and Britannica. From the article:

"If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia," he said."Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do?"

The algorithm does not care one bit about which link is more elite, classy, or respected, only about it's relation to other pages on the web. The fact that Wikipedia comes up as the number one result simply illustrates just how popular it is. Ironically, if Jorge read Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] , he might know that.

It's interesting to see that while Britannica lacks a search result for PageRank, Wikipedia has a full article containing mathematical formulas and informative history and commentary about the algorithm. It also cites 16 references and an additional 6 in further reading. Which encyclopedia is inferior, again?

Now, certainly, Wikipedia should not be used as an authoritative source, but its PageRank alone demonstrates just how effective it has been at bringing knowledge to the masses. Wikipedia is almost always my first stop for a search because it often has a full article for a topic that I might otherwise spend minutes searching for on Google and will have many links to related topics and sources for the article if I want to dig deeper. Most of the time though, I'm not looking for a fully researched, academic quality paper, just a quick overview of the subject. I have a feeling that most people use it for the same reason.

Re:You still just don't get it (3, Insightful)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559581)

Now, certainly, Wikipedia should not be used as an authoritative source

Nothing should be used as an authorative source.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one.

Re:You still just don't get it (5, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559585)

You're absolutely right.

Wikipedia is ranked higher because it is more linked throughout the web. But this is just another example where PageRank really is working: it's returning results that are most useful to the searcher.

For instance for "neutron" on Google, the first link is to Wikipedia. Britannica is nowhere on the first page. If you go directly to Britannica, they do indeed have an article on "neutron" [britannica.com] . However, it is a "premium topic" and keeps asking me to become a member. So when someone is searching for information about neutrons, what source is more useful: the one that immediately provides some information, with references; or the one that asks you to pay some money (or try the free trial...) in order to get full access, so that you can then figure out whether the information they have is useful or not... ?

The fact is that Wikipedia is more heavily linked because it is a more accessible, therefore more useful, source of information. Even if Britannica's content were superior, this would still be the case. The fact that Wikipedia is more expansive, more timely, and frequently more detailed/referenced than Britannica just makes the choice even clearer.

PageRank works. Wikipedia is overall a more useful source to the average web surfer, and thus deserves a much higher rank.

Re:You still just don't get it (4, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560125)

As a friend of mine put it: "Even if Wikipedia is only right 80% of the time, that's a lot more right than we need to get a satisfying answer to why the Star Trek Experience in Vegas closed down."

Re:You still just don't get it (1)

095 (710782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559737)

If you search Brittanica for Google there's no result for the Google search engine, only a result for search engines in general on the second page. I had the impression that search was number 1 for Google.

Re:You still just don't get it (2, Insightful)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559727)

Of course they don't get it, they reserve that realisation for the day they are out of a job. When I was a kid, I often looked in my father's copy of Britannica, and I really do respect what they have created, but, you know, times have changed. Thinking that they haven't is just foolish.

To quote the article:

"It's very much used by many people because it covers many topics and it's the No.1 search result on Google. It's not necessarily that people go to Wikipedia."

Hmm, Ridiculous. I often just bypass google and go to Wikipedia directly. The only reason that I sometimes use google for reaching wikipedia articles is that the search engine of wikipedia itself is way too strict.

I think Britannica will go, one way or another. I think maybe their only hope is to work together with wikipedia, in assisting them to become better reviewed. I don't really have an answer for the financial picture but I think a nonprofit organization might be the only way.

Re:You still just don't get it (4, Informative)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559901)

There's a lot of work being done on Wikipedia's search functionality (it's a heavily tweaked version of Lucene). It's not better than Googling with "site:en.wikipedia.org" as yet, but it's way better than it was even six months ago, and work is ongoing.

can any of us really 'live' on less than a billion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559097)

or a few 100 million? just to be fair? & just what is a fair day's pay?

Linkage creates the ranks (5, Informative)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559129)

Google ranks Wikipedia articles higher than Britannica articles because Wikipedia.com is linked to more than Britannica.com.

In fact I would wager good money that Wikipedia.con is one of the top 5 linked to domains PERIOD, probably shortly after sites like cnn.com, myspace.com, facebook.com

Google doesn't just manually set it's rankings. They're set by the web. If Britannica wants higher rankings they need to get more people to link to them as an authority.

Re:Linkage creates the ranks (4, Insightful)

fruey (563914) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559211)

Britannica is "full text for subscribers only" so you can understand just why Wikipedia is linked to so much. You don't have to write a paragraph to explain something any more, you just link to Wikipedia. That's why it's so highly ranked for many terms.

The worry of course is that high ranked sources of encyclopedic information are self sustaining. Why link anywhere else... do you have time to find anywhere better when you've got a post or article to write?

Maybe sometimes we should think more about our outgoing links, spreading the juice around more evenly... but then we should all drive more economically and eat better too ;-).

Subscriber login (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559915)

And they're just so nice about how they show a login dialogue every two seconds if you happen to be browsing an article that's at all off the beaten path.

Re:Linkage creates the ranks (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559403)

I think it's not just links, but also how often people click from Google to the sites as well. If it's more popular, they go higher up. It just makes sense.

Re:Linkage creates the ranks (5, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559769)

It's also the fact that Wikipedia just has so much more content and depth, especially on specific topics (Britannica just has articles on the big and obvious stuff). The sheer volume of information on Wikipedia makes Britannica look like a Kindergartner's encyclopedia. Just this morning, on an earlier topic on plutonium, someone on /. pointed to a fascinating Wikipedia entry on "Cherenkov Radiation [wikipedia.org] " (in response to someone saying that radiation didn't actually make things glow in real life). Later I went and typed in "Cherenkov Radiation" in Britannica just to compare and got...well nothing. Britannica has an article on "radiation" in general, but nothing nearly as specific as this.

Re:Linkage creates the ranks (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559907)

As a follow-uy I finally did find a Britannica entry on Cherenkov Radiation [britannica.com] , featuring all of a paragraph of info and no pictures (had to use Google, not Britannica's own search engine, to find it). Now, compare that to the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] . And they WONDER why Wikipedia's articles rank higher?!?!

Australia discovered in 1770... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559135)

according to the article. Wikipedia says 1606.

Re:Australia discovered in 1770... (4, Funny)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559401)

according to the article. Wikipedia says 1606.

I daresay the aborigines would reckon the date a bit earlier...

Re:Australia discovered in 1770... (1)

Tweaker_Phreaker (310297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559517)

Both the Wikipedia page and the Britannica page for Australia give credit to the Dutch for discovering it in 1606 but then it was ignored until 1770 when Cook laid claim to it for England. The article incorrectly gave credit to Cook and was not written by Britannica.

Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (5, Insightful)

Gybrwe666 (1007849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559179)

Quote: "If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia," he said."Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do?"

I don't know...maybe that's because a few hundred million people visit Wikipedia every year, and maybe because someone like me, who remembers when Lynx was the only web browser available, has never actually gone to Brittanica's website? Just maybe? Perhaps if they resolved their rectal-cranial inversion and made an accessible, easy to use, accurate product their PageRank might improve?

Bill

Re:Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (5, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559485)

Perhaps if they resolved their rectal-cranial inversion and made an accessible, easy to use, accurate product their PageRank might improve?

Also, if it was free instead of being a subscription based service, it might be more popular. It's an inescapable fact of economics. All other things being roughly equal, a free alternative will beat one that costs money... And for what "people" want, Wikipedia and Britannica are essentially equal. No one's looking for exhaustive scientific research on a subject. They're looking for the atomic number of Tin, or how many eggs a chicken lays per week. Who the fuck is going to pay $70 a year for that?

Re:Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (2, Informative)

fruey (563914) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559669)

You can get the answers by asking slashdot too.

Tin = Sn = Atomic number 50 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin]

Google directly replies with 50 if you ask "what is the atomic number of tin"

Chickens = 300 eggs/year = 5.77 a week [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken]

Second result in Google for "how many eggs does a chicken lay in a week" contains the answer in the summary.

So, you can just ask Google these questions in natural language and it's not bad at all, quicker than scanning the Wikipedia article (esp. for Chicken)

Wikipedia is the first result for chicken and for tin.

Re:Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (4, Funny)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559569)

If I were the CEO of Britannica, I would be ashamed to have a website full of ads and nag screen

Re:Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (5, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559667)

If I were the CEO of Britannica, I would be ashamed to have a website full of ads and nag screen

If you are capable of feeling shame, you'll never be a CEO.

Re:Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560191)

Yeah, but the correlation/causation thingy strikes again.

Re:Criticizing Google...that's just rich... (5, Insightful)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560129)

What? you can read Britannica on the web? I had no idea, I've never stumbled on a Britannica link, never, not even in Google.

  But then again, this new information is useless anyway.

Rankings (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559181)

There is also a bit of a rant against Google for ranking Wikipedia above Britannica on most search terms.

Well, I guess that Google doesn't like to read teaser summaries that demand a paid subscription to read "premium content" any more than I do.

Part of a borader trend (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559207)

Wisdom of the crowd wins again.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisdom_of_the_crowd [wikipedia.org]

Respected journals such as 'Nature' have (finally) acknowledged they they have published bogus or falsified claims in the past. I'm sure all here know the exmaples, plus of course patent research on prior art, FOSS... Huge pressure exists now for scientific, and other publications, to go this way. Which of course, raises other questions - like what's the 'final' version of 'the truth'?

Where the Britannica guys (may) have the edge is that they claim all submissions will be reviewed by editors, (although not subject experts). Will they be able to keep pace with the volume of submissions?

Just checked Britannica.com - I wouldn't use it! (5, Interesting)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559213)

I just checked Britannica.com and I can see another reason why people avoid it - it's terrible for access, where as Wikipedia is a nice and simple browsable site, much closer to a reference book with cross-reference links.

You hit the front page of Brittanica.com and you get two Flash movies (which I don't see because I use Gnash and have it set to pause on load and not play) and the side panel animates itself open. I decide to try and browse and I can't because the Flash is rendered above the "browse" pop-up layer. I do a search and there's no obvious search button, you just have to hit the Enter key and assume it'll work. Rather than giving you results or the page you want it gave me a quick "light box" animation before popping up another layer. Once I do get to the article it takes ages to load because of the adverts and a slow caching site (ironically) and then it proceeds to plaster its "pay for premium" advert over what I was just about to read! When you close the "pay for premium" layer it won't even go away - apparently details about "encyclopedia" are a premium topic and so it keeps popping back every few seconds!

With an interface like that there's no wonder people prefer Wikipedia given that it's "accurate enough" for most people's needs.

Re:Just checked Britannica.com - I wouldn't use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559335)

It's not just the interface. Try reading the article for, say, Germany. Premium content? Are you fucking kidding me? You expect to be a competitor to Wikipedia when you add nag screens that pop up constantly demanding you pay? Though it looks like someone could write a GreaseMonkey script that would make it readable.

NoScript FTW!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559423)

disabling scripts stops the pop-up and you can surf the whole thing without interuption...

me thinks they just don't know much about the internet. ironic.

Re:NoScript FTW!!! (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559547)

I picture a Britannica HQ populated by a bunch of old farts complaining about the "kids and their damned internets." When they decided to develop an online version, they probably just went with the first developer who could impress them with some cheap Flash and a lot of impressive-sounding jargon. "That guy really knows his internets," was no doubt overheard at the end of his presentation.

Re:NoScript FTW!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26560205)

dear slashdot moderators,

you've deleted my orignal post, which i undertand if it's because it suggested a way around brittanica's pay scheme but...

you've left a reply with the title which does pretty much the same thing.

so why delete me?

Re:Just checked Britannica.com - I wouldn't use it (4, Informative)

McGregorMortis (536146) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559449)

I just did a quicky informal comparison. Searched Britannica for a few terms that I know Wikipedia has good articles about (because I read them recently). And I don't mean the pop-culture kinds of terms that Wikipedia is really great for (just try to find an article about, say, Bubba Ho-tep, in Britannica.)

ADO(ActiveX Data Objects): nothing at all. Much ado about Shakespeare, though.

OLE DB: nothing at all.

But it did suggest an article about "decibel" (the unit of measurement.) Ok, let's see what it's got: One brief paragraph. Textually describes the math (rather than giving an equation). Doesn't really explain at all _why_ people like decibel measurements. Mentions the confusing 10*log vs 20*log thing for powers and amplitudes, but doesn't deign to explain why it is that way.

Wikipedia: Lengthy, informative, and as far as I can see, completely accurate.

That is why people link to Wikipedia. And that is why it has a high Google rank.

Perhaps with more user contributions Britannica can catch up somewhat, but it'll be one hell of an uphill climb at this point.

Re:Just checked Britannica.com - I wouldn't use it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559731)

Yeah. Because ADO is

Re:Just checked Britannica.com - I wouldn't use it (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559537)

But...but..Jorge's overpaid hip web designers and marketing committees said that flash is in and everyone loves it. His no-nonsense MBAs claim that teaser summaries will increase sales, but to never give a whole article away for free.

Some companies deserve to fold. This is your classic "we wont adopt to the new web-based market, we'll just keep doing what we've always done and use the web purely as a sales and marketing platform."

Shame really. If they would get re-do their annoying site and give more content for free (say a 60 or 90 day trial for free with no obligations/cc numbers) it might be interesting. Its incredible to me that the trial is 7 days and that its just a way to give you the hard sell for a $1,000 set of books.

These guys just dont get it.

Re:Just checked Britannica.com - I wouldn't use it (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559823)

You forgot to mention that when you scroll down the page, it keeps loading content in, and makes you wait for it each time. Also, in 1024*768 at least, the info window is woefully small.

Well, screw Britannica (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559239)

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Britannica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

Re:Well, screw Britannica (1)

WagonWheelsRX8 (1282738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559473)

I would mod you up Funny if I had any points

Re:Well, screw Britannica (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559541)

And if I could edit my post I would replace "the Hitchhiker's Guide" by "Wikipedia".

Re:Well, screw Britannica (1)

azgard (461476) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559883)

Except of course in Wikipedia, the inscribed words are "BE BOLD!".

Simpsons already did it (4, Informative)

styryx (952942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559261)

Scholarpedia [scholarpedia.org] looks set to address this difference, it is already quite good in its early stages. Essentially wikipedia where only scholars can edit.

Britannica is now out of date. The FLASH ADS on their site are abrasive and annoying; I will refuse to visit there site anymore due to this behaviour alone.

Re:Simpsons already did it (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559959)

Its losing point is that it isn't all free content, even if it's done in MediaWiki.

The problem with encyclopedias is (1)

boteeka (970303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559283)

that they are somehow less relevant in most of the cases than the up-to-date Wikipedia. Classic encyclopedias fall short on providing up-to-date information, even in their online versions. There is simply no way an organization like Britannica could hire so much editors to cover all the articles what's already covered in Wikipedia.

Brittanica will charge you money (3, Insightful)

MollyB (162595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559289)

Out of curiosity I visited www.britannica.com and did a sample search. The result came up, but when I tried to scroll down the article, it faded away and an offer for a "Free Trial" wafted into view. I'm not sure how long the free trial is, but they want to charge you a nickel less than $12/month, or $70/year or bundled with Merriam-Webster for $85/year. I don't see how they expect a casual user to pay these prices when Wikipedia and Wiktionary only ask for donations.
I'll use the free services for most things. If one needs further verification, there are external references available.

Google Rankings (3, Insightful)

breadstic (1396173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559317)

There are valid reasons that Wikipedia appears before Britannica on Google search results.

One of them is that if users wanted to pay for their information, then they would have already taken out a subscription with somebody like Britannica. And then they would be using their paid subscription to Britannica by using their search engine and NOT searching for free information on Google.

So if I change their page on Cold Dark Matter (5, Interesting)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559359)

they're going to have an expert review it in 20 minutes?

What about a change to some obscure British scifi novel, like The Last Legionary? (By Douglas Hill)

This is never gonna work.

(* I have made changes to both of those pages in wikipedia, and though obscure topics, it wasn't long before further changes were made clarifying my own poorly written points.)

marketing (1)

adnd74 (1022357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559363)

Britannica is known as a hard copy encyclopedia. The type of resource that you go to the library for. Wikipedia has marketed itself as the online leader for encyclopedia type lookup... Wikipedia is what people want (thus higher page rankings on Google). Britannica has a long way to go in changing the way people look at them before they will be competitors on the web. they should have started this long ago if they wanted to establish a presence.

Re:marketing (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559977)

Wikipedia hasn't marketed itself at all. See that top-10 ranking, #4 on ComScore and #8 on Alexa? Word of mouth.

To Mortimer Adler, a great big "F*** you!" (3, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559407)

Mortimer Adler is the author of numerous books such as, "How to Read a Book", and I believe he was once an editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Alas, despite writing many good books, Adler was maddeningly patronizing towards his readers. For Britannica to let the great unwashed masses actually modify one of his sacred texts almost makes me giddy.

Re:To Mortimer Adler, a great big "F*** you!" (3, Funny)

dwandy (907337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559993)

not knowing who he was, I googled the name ... my first page hit? of course! [wikipedia.org]

Britannica stopped being free (4, Interesting)

jbolden (176878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559437)

Back in the earlier day of the web encylopedia Americana was free. Britannica was a pay site. Then Britannica went free and it was dominant. But for most of this decade Britannica has not been a free site, which means links are low value.

Further:

1) Wikipedia has vastly more articles than Britannica. It isn't even close.

2) Wikipedia covers a wider range of topics.

3) Wikipedia articles are longer and more detailed

4) Wikipedia articles are much more web friendly with their "see also" web references.... In many ways playing the role yahoo used to play

5) Wikipedia articles offer history and talk pages which can provide tons of additional information

I can't see why Britannica would even think that in 2009 they should rank above Wikipedia. Wikipedia vs. Britannica discussions were interesting in 2005/6 and you could make a case. Today they aren't even close. Wikipedia functions reasonably well against specialized encyclopedias in their specialties.

I have always been a strong supporter of Britannica. I've bought lots of their products over the years and still use their encyclopedia on my laptop as a mobile solution. But they really aren't in the same league anymore as reference works. I think Columbia Encyclopedia [amazon.com] makes a fantastic one volume reference work but I wouldn't rate it not to Britannica. Quantity matters.

__________

Even assuming they started to get a flood of content I don't see how they would deal with it. Are they really ready to fact check say 1000 pages of new content a day? If they want to do what they are talking about they need to do something like partner with http://en.citizendium.org/ [citizendium.org]
Britannica could create a distinctive advantage for citizendium and at the same time Singer has put in place enough people to help with content additions.

Great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559557)

Now Britannica can start to get their quality down to Wikipedia's level. We can all look farward to dilligently researched and professionaly written articles about minor characters from Star Wars spin-off novels.

Re:Great. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559695)

farward? dilligently? professionaly?

Good job.

Here's hoping it works (2, Insightful)

Kizor (863772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559575)

We are far indeed from knowing the extents of the Internet's potential, but know it's large enough to make the largest reference work in human history spring up out of nowhere. There's hardly a better time to experiment. If this goes wrong, the Britannica staff if anyone should be able to tell and they have an encyclopedia-wide revision to fall back on.

The rebellious air of Wikipedia's earlier years has dissipated, and editors no longer (widely) see the site as a competitor to Britannica. Both are used to provide information (yes, yes, Power Rangers Pokemon hur hur.) If one of them invents a way to do so better, hooray! Everybody wins.

Thank you Mr. Adams (1)

Evrion (1459047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559711)

"it has already supplanted the "Brittannica" as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate; it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two respects. First, it is slightly chearper" ... and the next part really doesn't apply ...

Britannica's design needs work (4, Interesting)

Artifex33 (932236) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559801)

Just looking at Britannica.com's home page will reveal why they aren't ranked as well as Wikipedia. Upwards of 90% of the home page content is irrelevant to the majority of users, who are there because they want to look something up, not look at the video of the day, play with the "Featured" flash movie, or read about how Britannica is involved in Advocacy for Animals. This is an excellent example of web design molded around the needs of internal customers and requirements rather than the needs of the end user. The flash movies swoop in as they load, drawing attention away from the user's goal: the search box in the upper-middle of the screen, which itself is visually subservient to the arrogant "Premium Membership - Free Trial" button in the upper-right.

Both google and wikipedia did it right. Give the user a search box, a logo, and some language options. Trust them to explore your system on their own.

Encyclopedia Britannica on-line. (1)

t-maxx cowboy (449313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559817)

So I don't think until this day I actually used any Encyclopedia Britannica content from the Google search results. Any website that requires a subscription for content should not complain that Google doesn't link to their site enough.

Interesting thing though, while I looked up a couple of terms of interest on Encyclopedia Britannica (specifically 'astronaut' and 'space shuttle'), there was a pop-up every so often telling me I was viewing premium content and to get full access (no annoying pop-up) I should try their free trial of the premium service. I could just click the x and close that pop-up for another 20-30 seconds. What I liked most was when I told Firefox to 'Save Page As' and saved the page then opened it from the downloads window, that annoying pop-up no longer plagued me while I continued to read the full article.

Re:Encyclopedia Britannica on-line. (1)

t-maxx cowboy (449313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559871)

One caveat though, is that any of the Encyclopedia Britannica links you click on cause the pop-up to occur on the next page loaded. So repeating the 'Save Page As' process is necessary. Inconvenient but workable.

This is funny (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26559865)

I interviewed there a couple months ago for a strategic product manager. Basically, they wanted someone to come in and help them figure out how to beat Wikipedia and reclaim the spot as reference provider of the world. It's pretty funny that this major strategic decision got made a few short months after they hired someone else (presumably). The real problem, and I told them this while interviewing, is that they are requiring people to pay for content, and wikipedia charges nothing, for "good-enough-for-most-people" content. Not to mention, as other posters here said, that wiki has WAY MORE articles.

Good luck Britannica. It would be sad to see such a staple of modern culture fall by the wayside of technology. There's something kind of cool about the rows of Encyclopaedia Britannica volumes on a bookshelf in a library on a dusty shelf. That doesn't mean it's useful, just that there's something weighty about that "brand".

The issue... (4, Insightful)

commo1 (709770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26559967)

The real issue here is that the "authoritative" (emphasis on the quotation marks) status of Wikipedia as THE place to go for information in the sense that it will in time be generally accurate. If Britannica is successful, Wikipedia's status will be diluted. Case in point: probably 90% or more of Slashdot users use Google for general web searches, while going to Wikipedia for encyclopaedia research, IMDB for movie research, Sourceforge for open source product research, etc.... We know better than to put up with a MSN or Yahoo query (unless the Google search came up unsatisfactory). If the Wikipedia results are unsatisfactory, we research and add to the article, making it more complete and authoritative. Are we going to feel compelled to verify that Britannica is correct as well? (keep in mind that Britannica would never have allowed free access, let alone editable content if it weren't for the success of Wikipedia). Do we really care that MSN and Yahoo perform poorly for most queries other than perhaps looking up the latest Katy Perry video or editorial content? This, of course, comes with a massive theoretical cost to freedom by concentrating the power with a small number of authorities (Google and Wikipedia, for example) but with the benefit of optimizing accuracy and reducing time required to "authoritate" the web.

Try this.. (1)

powerslave12r (1389937) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560047)

If you Google for "Encyclopedia" Wikipedia comes above Britannica. If you Google for "Encyclopaedia", Britannica comes above Wikipedia.

Douglas Adams, prophet... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26560077)

If you want Pagerank to rank you up, you have to get links. What would encourage people to link to Britannica?

Well, I guess we have one answer.

This could be very interesting.

It's like Encyclopedia Galactica taking on the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

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