WASHINGTON – Tough luck for lazy high school students looking for a quick reference for a term paper.
Wikipedia, the user-edited online reference guide with more than 3.8 million articles in English alone, is dark Wednesday, joining dozens of other websites that have gone offline in protest over anti-piracy legislation in Congress they say would stifle Internet freedom and creativity.
For 24 hours, millions of Web users are being deprived of the exhaustive and, in some cases, dubiously verified information that Wikipedia provides on subjects ranging from Kim Jong Ill to Kim Kardashian, from Aachen, Germany, to Zzyzx, California.
But even if Wikipedia were to disappear from the Internet permanently — though, really, what ever disappears from the Internet forever? — Wikipedia isn’t the only cyber reference in online town.
Here’s just a small sampling of some of the alternatives:
Scholarpedia looks and acts a lot like Wikipedia. The content can be edited like a Wiki page, but the main difference is that all the articles are submitted and peer reviewed by scholars. So no information about Kim Kardashian here.
Citizendium is similar to Wikipedia, but unlike the larger site where most of the articles are submitted and edited anonymously, contributors to Citizendium must register under their real names.
Some of the most famous precursors to Wikipedia are available online, including Encyclopedia Britannica and MSN Encarta. Both, however, require an annual subscription fee. Britannica costs $69.95 and Encarta is $29.95
There is one version of Britannica that is available online for free. Just don’t go looking for much information beyond World War I. The 1911 Classic Encyclopedia Project aims to preserve what many consider the best encyclopedia ever written. And it’s formatted almost the way Wikipedia might have looked if the Internet had been around for more than a century.
About.com and Answers.com offer information on a variety of subjects, though navigating the sites might not be as intuitive as on Wikipedia.
Refdesk.com contains a wealth of links to search engines, newspaper websites and links that would fit in nicely in a library’s reference section, if links existed in the real world.
Not enough for you? One guy online has compiled a list of Google whatever you’re looking for, or visit a library, or just wait until Thursday, when this 24-hour virtual protest will be over.