What is a wiki?
From Retro CDN
"Wiki", a Hawaiian word for "quick".
From Wikipedia: "A wiki (/ˈwɪki/ WIK-ee) is a website on which users collaboratively modify content and structure directly from the web browser."
Traditionally the internet has consisted of websites maintained by a select group of people; usually the creator or owner, and often one or more individuals who have been trusted to maintain the website's contents. Others can view the website, but generally have little say about what its contents are - it's a sensible relationship that ensures those who are paying for the running costs can decide what the world can see.
However, the bigger the website, the harder it becomes to maintain. When it comes to online encyclopedias, hiring people knowledgeable in all subjects is a neigh-on impossible task, and so the proposal was made to open the site up to the world and let the users take charge of its contents.
And so formed the concept of a wiki, a website users can change.
Why wikis exist
While the Encyclopædia Britannica would have been groundbraking in 1768, there is too much knowledge in the modern world to fit in a collection of books. By housing information on the internet, it can be made freely available to anyone with an internet connection, and can be maintained in real time.
That is to say, if a new piece of information comes to light, there is no longer a need to wait for the fact to be physically published and shipped to your door until you can read it for yourself. Furthermore, when the job of collecting information is no longer assigned to a single person, the task becomes a collective project. Information is collectively obtained, and collectively reviewed for its factual accuracy. The more people working on a wiki, the more reliable it will become.
In short, online Wikis have the potential to be extensive, up to date, accurate and freely available.
Why should I care?
The day-to-day runnings of our wikis rely exclusively on volunteers. Nobody is paid for their efforts, but what is written can be used to educate and inform others. We're always keen to get more people involved with our products, to make the Retro wikis some of the best sources of information on the internet. If you want to help others with their understanding of a subject, contributing to a wiki is a really good way to go.
Why not use Wikipedia?
So if wikis are so great, why not use the one wiki synonymous with the term, Wikipedia?
The English Wikipedia is, by far, the largest wiki on the internet, and the largest encyclopedia in general. However, with size comes limitations - Wikipedia attempts to cover everything, however the sheer scale of this task means many subjects have to be described in broad terms. Also in an effort to manage its size, Wikipedia puts restrictions on much of its contents, from images not freely licensed, to a desire to rely on external websites to back up its facts.
While Wikipedia remains one of the best sources of information on the internet, for the subjects we like, we think we can do a better job!
More differences with Wikipedia will be described elsewhere in this help section - while much is the same, we have chosen to make different choices.
How can I help?
Register an account, read our tutorial, and get stuck in!