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Internet vs. Wikipedia


I have been irritating some of my friends by claiming that Wikipedia is “bigger” (more important, more beautiful) than the Internet. In the near future, the Internet will be vaguely remembered as something tahta had something to do with the early stages of the Wikipedia(s). Walking back from the MindTrek conference today, I finally came up with an argument of sorts for the claim.

Typically, a library has books on bookshelves. Bookshelves or shelves of some kind predate the library; it might even be claimed that bookshelves were necessary for the library to be born. But books can be stored in other ways, and regularly are. Counterfactually, one can imagine libraries existing or being invented without bookshelves. At the very least, now that libraries exist, we could have them without bookshelves – and probably there are some, already.

The analogy is clear, right? The net is a technology that makes Wikipedia possible. It might have been historically necessary for the net to predate the Wikipedia, but now that the Wikipedia exists, we can imagine a Wikipedia without the net, even a counterfactual alternative history without the Internet but with the Wikipedia. The Internet as a technological platform will become obsolete one way or another, and it will be outlived by the Wikipedia.


  1. matti wrote:

    Yes and no! We are talking about the same thing that is called “multiple realization” in philosophy of mind. Any definite information content exists abstractly without a reference to some particular realization, but can it exist without a reference to any realization whatsoever?

    Someone could claim that Wikipedia has always existed, but that would just be stretching the concept beyond usefull.

    If your point is that some other technology can supersede today’s internet, then fine and well, we all agree. But what’s that going to be then? Are there any indications for more weird possibilities in quantum computation etc.?

    Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
  2. Juha wrote:

    See “Wikis for Supporting Distributed Collaborative Writing” at

    Sunday, October 7, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  3. Tere wrote:

    Matti: I think it will be some sort of p2p-networks, maybe “mobile ad hoc p2p.”

    Monday, October 8, 2007 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

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