Wikipedia @ 20

Joseph Reagle

Jackie Koerner

MIT Press


Call for Participation: We welcome essay proposals from all-comers toward a MIT Press collection about Wikipedia, to be developed via open review on MIT’s PubPub platform and resulting in a CC-BY-NC licensed book. Initial abstracts of 300-500 words are due 2018-Nov-01, details are below.


As Wikipedia’s twentieth year anniversary approaches, many of the site’s early peers have fallen by the wayside; those that survived have been overrun with ads and misinformation. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia founded on radical collaboration and reliable sourcing, persists. What was once a scrappy experiment has become the world’s most popular reference work. Recently, Wikipedia was even enlisted by its peers—unknowingly—to counteract their problems with fake news.

Yet, the online encyclopedia was not always looked to as the grownup of the web. Within its first ten years, some labeled the project a fad bound to fail, others claimed it as a harbinger of the Web’s future. Wikipedia did not fail, nor has the open collaboration it exemplifies become the template for most online platforms.

Wikipedia’s legacy is an opportunity to reflect on this project and online communities more generally. That is, what insights are available from Wikipedia’s twenty years of history? What does this history tell us of expectations fulfilled or disappointed, opportunities seized or missed, myths confirmed or busted, lessons learned, or the probable future?

To see what insights we can draw from Wikipedia @ 20, we are asking researchers and Wikipedians three questions:

  1. What initially attracted your attention to Wikipedia?
  2. What has changed since then?
  3. What do these changes portend for the future of Wikipedia, online community, and beyond?

We hope that across the domains of community, contributors, ecosystem, and meaning we’ll find compelling and accessible insights to more specific questions, such as:

Our audience will be a general one. Each contribution should be short (three-to-five thousand words) and accessible to anyone interested in Wikipedia. This will be a collection of thoughtful essays (expected 2020), rather than a venue for original research findings. Essays that make use of such research, of course, are welcome.


To participate, please send a 300-500 word abstract/proposal to by 2018-Nov-01. Give us a sense of how the three questions above will lead you to a specific insight, argument, or explanation. (If you wish for more detail provocation, see the draft introduction.) Invitations for contributions will be sent by 2018-Dec-20, with submissions due 2019-May-01. Submissions will be made available for a two-month open review on MIT’s PubPub platform. Revised essays are due 2019-August and those included in the printed collection will also be available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.