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Wikipedia is a free, web-based and collaborative multilingual encyclopedia, born in the project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning "quick") and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's 13 million articles (2.9 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone who can access the Wikipedia website. Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it is currently the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet.

Critics of Wikipedia accuse it of systemic bias and inconsistencies, and allege that it favors consensus over credentials in its editorial process. Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy are also an issue. Other criticisms center on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information, though scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived.

Wikipedia's departure from the expert-driven style of the encyclopedia building mode and the large presence of unacademic contents have been noted several times. A study found that more than 50% of the visits to the site are related to entertainment (e.g., TV and music) and sexuality. When Time magazine recognized "You" as its Person of the Year for 2006, acknowledging the accelerating success of online collaboration and interaction by millions of users around the world, it cited Wikipedia as one of three examples of Web 2.0 services, along with YouTube and MySpace. Some noted the importance of Wikipedia not only as an encyclopedic reference but also as a frequently updated news resource because of how quickly articles about recent events appear.

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Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Wikipedia" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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