In a case of David versus Goliath, 11 year old online reference site, Wikipedia has brought an end to a 244 year old print institution.

Last week, Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that it was discontinuing its print edition and moving its operations entirely online. A Twitter user tweeted: “If you are too young to know what Encyclopaedia Britannica is, look it up on Wikipedia.”

According to Has Wikipedia beaten Britannica in the Encyclopedia Battle?, “encyclopedia makers are finding it increasingly difficult to counter Wikipedia’s rise, even though they are not willing to accept it”.

“This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google”

Jorge Cauz, Britannica President told the Washington Post: “This has nothing to do with Wikipedia or Google; this has to do with the fact that now Britannica sells its digital products to a large number of people.”

Gesm Archary, 1st year Accounting Science, said she thought the reason for Britannica discontinuing its print edition could be because of Wikipedia and the “growing digital world”.

Reputation and credibility of Wikipedia?

Vuvuzela previously reported on the work of local nongovernmental organisation, The African Commons Project, efforts to improve the reputation and credibility of Wikipedia among academics.

One of the major reasons why academics frown upon Wikipedia is because anyone can edit or contribute to the site leading to the perception that the site cannot be considered as a credible source.

Archary said she no longer uses Wikipedia for her essays because “we are told not to do so.” However, she maintained that for general knowledge purposes Wikipedia is the first place she looks.

Letitia Rohanlall, 1st year political science tutor, said she encourages students to look at Wikipedia to get an idea of how to approach a topic and to find a credible source that backs up that information.

Palesa Mogagabe, 2nd year Bachelor of Arts, said: “Even though as students we are discouraged from using Wikipedia, I use it anyway.”

The According to theLos Angeles Times, Wikipedia is the fifth most visited site in the world with 400 million visitors per day. In 2009 Microsoft Encarta suffered a similar fate; it was rendered useless by Wikipedia’s free availability, constantly updated content by contributors from around the world.