6 Alternatives to Wikipedia

7 minute read

6 Alternatives to Wikipedia

With various online encyclopedias that fit different needs, you may have more choices than you expected.

  • Wikipedia is a great source for information, though many researchers don’t feel comfortable citing it as a resource due to its open contribution model.
  • There are several alternatives to Wikipedia that offer different advantages.
  • Some online encyclopedias are more reliable than Wikipedia due to different formats and ideology-based approaches.
  • Wikipedia is the largest online encyclopedia at 6.2 million articles and growing.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica Online is the most reliable and respected online encyclopedia, but it requires a subscription.

You can’t always use Wikipedia. Although Wikipedia dominates search engines, it’s often not the most trustworthy source.

The prevalence of fake news and misinformation has caused us all to be critical of what we read online. Even what we read on Wikipedia. We may trust Wikipedia to settle a bet about whether Abraham Lincoln was the 15th or 16th president (Wikipedia will confirm he was the 16th), but any serious research must be credited to verified professionals and academics.

When you need ironclad information from an expert or scholar, you might want to place your trust in a more professional, vetted source. Or if you find Wikipedia editors views to favor a certain agenda on some topics, it might be easier for you to find satisfactory answers in an encyclopedia that’s a bit different. Some online encyclopedias even offer choices between full-length articles and topic summaries.

This article will explore the alternatives to Wikipedia, including when to seek information elsewhere and the pros and cons of each alternative.

Sections

Is there an alternative to Wikipedia?

Wikipedia dominates the Internet, having made fast friends with Google. There are a few key factors that cause Wikipedia articles to rise to the top of search results.

  • On the technical side, Wikipedia is fast and lean.
  • Wikipedia rarely loads slow or experiences downtime.
  • Wikipedia is frequently updated, since individuals are given the opportunity to update content.

The same factors that make Wikipedia a search engine superstar also bring the legitimacy of its content into question. Because of its open contribution model, many researchers don’t feel comfortable citing Wikipedia as a resource. In fact, many educational institutions won’t allow it.

In his effort to give “every single person on the planet…free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” co-founder Jimmy Wales has very nearly succeeded. But for those who prefer more reliable information, there are several Wikipedia alternatives online with various models that each offer different advantages.

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

Britannica was once the most-referenced encyclopedia in the world. Wikipedia has grown to overshadow Britannica in the Age of the Internet, but Britannica is still one of the most highly-respected reference materials available.

Britannica

The online version is a straight transfer from the printed version, which comes with the benefit of knowing that all the entries are made solely by professionals.

The disadvantage of Britannica Online is that it is not free (though it is incredibly cheaper than buying the entire collection of books). You can subscribe to Encyclopedia Britannica Online for about $70 per year, while you have to shell out almost $1,500 for the 32-volume book collection.

Scholarpedia

Wikipedia and Scholarpedia are both owned by MediaWiki, but Scholarpedia is comprised of more traditionally sourced material.

Unlike Wikipedia, only invited experts can contribute to Scholarpedia. The author's name is attached to each article and any edits must be approved by the author prior to publishing. This ensures that the articles are accurate and are not prone to vandalism that frequently occurs on Wikipedia.

Citizendium

Citizendium is a Wiki that is still in the BETA stage.

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger created Citizendium as a compromise between the Wikipedia and Scholarpedia models. As such, the article vetting process for Citizendium sits in between Wikipedia's loose criteria and Scholarpedia's invite-only approach. 

In order to submit an edit to Citizendium, contributors mush register under their own names. Once the edit is submitted, it must be approved by the site’s editorial team in what they refer to as “gentle oversight.” Sanger is confident in the future success of this platform as an improvement over Wikipedia.

MSN Encarta

Another online encyclopedia that outshined Wikipedia in reliability was MSN Encarta. It was written by professionals, fact-checked, and reasonably vandalism-proof. Like Encyclopedia Britannica, there was an annual subscription fee, but only about $30 and included a  thesaurus, world atlas, and research tools.

Infoplease

Infoplease is a publication of Pearson Education, the world’s largest distributor of educational literature. Content is collected from trusted sources like Random House Dictionary - users are not able to contribute to the content.

Instead of full-length articles like Wikipedia, Infoplease offers brief and informational topic summaries. While significantly shorter, the information is accurate and tamper-proof. Infoplease also offers multimedia features for research assistance.

Conservapedia

Conservapedia

Wikipedia is believed by some to be too liberal. At Reputation X we can attest to bias by Wikipedia authors, especially in political or environmental contexts. This idea of bias in Wikipedia sparked the creation of Conservapedia, a conservative, Christian Wiki encyclopedia complete with seven Commandments that users must follow. 

No foul language, sexual topics, or offensive material is allowed on the site. And it is moderated by an editorial staff. Those who believe Wikipedia shows too much of a liberal bias in their content might enjoy Conservapedia as an alternative.

FAQs about Wikipedia alternatives

What is the most reliable encyclopedia?

Many online encyclopedias are written, fact-checked, and edited by experts and professionals. Any of the highly-vetted, subscription-based publications should be considered extremely reliable. The differences between them will generally come down to size and breadth. The largest and most comprehensive of these reliable resources is Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Wikipedia v Britannica

What is the largest free encyclopedia on the Internet?

With almost 6.2 million articles, Wikipedia is the largest free encyclopedia on the Internet. But that’s not all; it is also bigger than many printed publications like the printed volumes of Britannica. Wikipedia has over 90 times the number of words as Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

While you may have to do a bit of fact-checking or source investigation when using Wikipedia as a resource, you have to admit it is very rare to not find the information you’re looking for, especially when Google plasters Wikipedia in most SERPs.

What is the best online encyclopedia?

It depends on your needs at the time. 

If you need solid information with no sourcing doubts, it is best to go with something like Encyclopedia Britannica Online or Scholarpedia. If you research regularly, it’s probably worth it to pay the annual subscription.

If you need quick and free information, you would be hard-pressed to find a better site than Wikipedia.

If your priorities are politically conservative, Conservapedia may be worth investigating.

Something that ticks all boxes to provide a generally satisfactory experience is the up and coming Citizendium.