Wiki – definition and meaning

Wiki refers to a database or website developed by a community of users who collaborate. Any user is allowed to add, update, or edit content. This type of community collaboration is made possible by a kind of software which runs on the Web server.

A wiki is a self-perpetuating online project, created and developed mainly by a collaborative effort by those who visit the website.

In most wikis, text is written using a simplified markup language which is usually edited with the help of a rich-text editor. The wiki software is referred to as the wiki engine.

The software differs from most other systems, including the programs used for blogs, in that content is created without any defined leader or owner. It has virtually no implicit structure – the structure emerges according to the users’ needs.

WikiToday, there are literally hundreds of Wikis online, covering encyclopedia-like databases, forums, quotes, maps, guides, etc.

Wiki means ‘fast’

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the noun ‘Wiki’ started off as WikiWikiWeb, a website set up by Ward Cunningham in 1995. In Hawaiian, WikiWiki means ‘fast, swift’. Etymology is the study of the origin of words, and how they evolved over time.

Ward Cunningham is an American computer programmer who developed the first ever wiki. He co-authored a book about wikis, titled The Wiki Way.

The book starts with an overview of discussion servers and their applications, and an introduction into the capabilities and components of wikis. In the book, Cunningham explains how to install and use wikis.

In their book, Cunningham and co-author Bo Leuf explained:

Wikis invite all users to edit their pages or create new ones within the website, using just a standard ‘plain vanilla’ Web browser with no extra add-ons.

Meaningful Topic Associations between different pages are achieved by making page link creation intuitively easy and showing whether an intended target page actually exists.

Not created by professional writers: wikis are designed to involve the typical visitor or user in an ongoing process of continuous collaboration and creation that constantly changes the landscape of the website.

Ward Cunningham - Inventor of WikiHoward G ‘Ward’ Cunningham, an American computer programmer, developed the first wiki. He began programming the software WikiWikiWeb in 1994 and installed it on his software consultancy’s website. When asked in 2006 whether he had ever considered patenting the wiki concept, he answered: “[The idea] just sounded like something that no one would want to pay money for.” (Image: adapted from Wikipedia)

Wikipedia – the wiki Goliath

The best example of the giant of all wikis is Wikipedia, which has been written collaboratively by the people who use it. Thousands of changes are made every hour to Wikipedia’s content.

On June 28th, 2017, Wikipedia had 5,431,910 content articles, 847,108 uploaded files, and 31,247,939 registered users, including 1,261 administrators. A total of 118,453 registered users had performed an action during the previous thirty days.

Wikipedia, which has been ranked among the top-ten sites in the world since 2007, is a collection of hundreds of wikis; not just one.

Video – Ward Cunningham talks about wikis

Ward Cunningham, the inventor of wikis, explains what they are. He said he created the software on the Web which allowed people to visit a website and create something.

He got the idea for the name after taking a ride on an airport shuttle in Honolulu in Hawaii called Wiki-Wiki.