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Thu, Oct 19, 2006 - Page 10 News List

`Citizendium' to challenge Wiki's Web dominance

RIVAL SERVICE Larry Sanger announced that he was working on an `expert' version to improve upon the Internet reference giant he helped to create


A co founder of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia written in collaborative fashion by the Internet community announced on Tuesday he is launching a rival service edited by experts.

A test version of "Citizendium" to be launched this week in Harmon, California will use experienced editors and subject authorities to tune information submitted by Web surfers.

"Wikipedia has accomplished great things, but the world can do even better," said Larry Sanger, the Wikipedia founder who is spearheading the Citizendium "free knowledge project."

Expert editors

"By engaging expert editors, eliminating anonymous contribution, and launching a more mature community under a new charter, a much broader and more influential group of people and institutions will be able to improve upon Wikipedia's extremely useful, but often uneven work," he added.

Wikipedia was created in 2001 as a Web site where users could freely contribute, edit and refine entries. It relied on the principle that people who knew better would correct factual errors introduced by others.

The Web site was based on "wiki" technology that lets visitors change text as they please. The name "wiki" came from a Hawaiian word meaning quick.

Wikipedia blossomed into a widely consulted online reference bank with accuracy reported to be on par with the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Vociferous critic

Sanger parted ways with Wikipedia in 2002 and became a vociferous critic of its accuracy.

The plan intends for Citizendium to guarantee more reliable information.

Content from Internet users will have to pass muster with editors, academics or others with minimum levels of qualifications based on "real world" markers such as college diplomas, according to Sanger.

University of Edinburgh physiology professor Gareth Leng was among those already signed on as Citizendium editors.

"Public understanding of science needs scientists to help to explain, clearly and objectively, what science can do and what it can't, its weaknesses as well as its strengths, its failures as well as its promise," Leng said.

Citizendium will start with "mirroring" Wikipedia's content and then set out to improve or replace it, according to Sanger.

Participation in the pilot project launching this week was by invitation only.

Invitations are available on request at www.citizendium.org/cfa.html.

It was expected to take several months for Citizendium to make a public online debut.

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