Deciphering the Digital Encyclopedia: How Wikipedia Differs from Wikidata

In the age of the internet, many of us turn to online platforms to quench our thirst for knowledge. Two prominent resources are Wikipedia and Wikidata. Though the names sound similar and both are projects by the Wikimedia Foundation, they serve different purposes and are structured differently. For those wondering how they differ, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in!

  1. The Basics
  • Wikipedia: Started in 2001, Wikipedia is a digital encyclopedia. It contains articles on various subjects, written collaboratively by volunteers. These articles provide in-depth information, often with references, images, and external links.
  • Wikidata: Launched in 2012, Wikidata is a free and open knowledge base that serves as a central storage for structured data. Instead of long prose articles, it provides concise data items that other Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, can use.
  1. Structure and Content
  • Wikipedia: Articles are in prose format, similar to traditional encyclopedias. Each article offers a narrative, providing context and explanation about a topic. You might read about the history of the Eiffel Tower, its design details, and cultural significance.
  • Wikidata: It organizes information into items, each with a unique identifier. An item, for instance, might be about the Eiffel Tower, and it will have associated data like its height, location, construction date, etc. Instead of paragraphs, you’d see labeled data points, such as what you see on this page.
  1. Purpose and Usage
  • Wikipedia: It aims to educate and inform. Users visit Wikipedia to read about topics in detail, from historical events to biographies and scientific concepts.
  • Wikidata: Its primary goal is to centralize data for other Wikimedia projects. It’s less about direct human consumption and more about feeding data to other platforms. For instance, the infobox on a Wikipedia page about a famous personality might pull data from Wikidata.
  1. Editing and Contributions
  • Wikipedia: Anyone can edit Wikipedia (with some restrictions on certain sensitive pages). Edits undergo scrutiny by community members, and changes remain visible in the article’s history.
  • Wikidata: Similar to Wikipedia, anyone can contribute to Wikidata. However, instead of modifying prose, contributors add or update data points.
  1. Language and Localization
  • Wikipedia: Each language has its version of Wikipedia, so the English Wikipedia might have a slightly different take on a topic than the Spanish or French Wikipedias.
  • Wikidata: It’s language-agnostic at its core. An item about the Eiffel Tower remains the same, but its labels and descriptions can be translated, making it a central repository that feeds multilingual projects.
  1. Links and Interconnectivity
  • Wikipedia: Articles often contain links to related topics, allowing readers to dive deeper into subjects.
  • Wikidata: Items are interlinked based on relationships. For instance, an item about a book might link to items about its author, publisher, and related genres.

In Conclusion

While both Wikipedia and Wikidata are invaluable resources in the digital age, they cater to different needs. Wikipedia offers detailed narratives, while Wikidata provides structured, interconnected data. Together, they form a comprehensive ecosystem that ensures knowledge is accessible, up-to-date, and interconnected in the vast expanse of the internet.