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A study from the Pew Center for the American Life Project has revealed that, despite questions over the accuracy of some of its entries, the online encyclopedia remains a popular source of information.

36% of US internet users consult Wikipedia regularly, which equates to 8% of the total US population. The survey also found that the site is most popular among the well educated, and college students.

For instance, 50% of those with a college degree or better regularly consult the site, and 42% of internet users with a household income of $75,000 (£37,000) or more.

Wikipedia is so popular because of the vast amount of information it holds on a massive variety of topics. The online encyclopedia has more than 5.3m entries in 251 different languages, 1.7m of which are in English.

Wikipedia is by far the most used reference/educational site on the web, with 24% of the traffic in that category last month. Its closest competitor, Yahoo Answers, had just 4% of traffic.

Another reason for Wikipedia's success is the amount of traffic it receives from search engines, which accounted for 70% of its visits in the week ending March 17.

Wikipedia's link structure has helped it gain high rankings on Google for many keywords - it receives over 50% of its traffic from the search engine:

Wikipedia's percentage of traffic from Google

Wikipedia has often been criticised for the inaccuracy of its articles, which is always going to be an issue when anyone can write and edit entries. Several imitators have been launched, which the aim of doing a better job.

These include Conservapedia, a right wing version which aims to counter the 'liberal bias' of the original. Leftists in search of outrage should start by reading Conservapedia's Bible-infused page on homosexuality. A slightly worrying trend, this online rise of the religious right-minded...

Additionally, Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia's founders, recently launched Citizendium which aims to improve the accuracy of articles by having contributors provide their real names, and also having experts verify the entries.

Graham Charlton

Published 25 April, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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