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December 5, 2005 / jnolen

UPDATED: Wikipedia loses its nerve

Wikipedia has decided to restrict anonymous users from creating new articles.

In actually, I don't think this will have a deleterious effect on the quality of quantity of Wikipedia's content. However, in principle, Wikipedia is saying that a) people can't be trusted, and b) the community is not powerful enough to correct itself. It's a disheartening admission.

UPDATE: According to the comments, Wikipedia's move is much more modest than the CNet article reports. They are not doing away with the ability to work anonymously. Instead, they are forcing users to create a username before creating pages. But crucially, a username doesn't require any identifying information. So people can be just as anonymous as they have always been — there is just a slightly higher barrier to entry, and hopefully a higher barrier to vandalism.


  1. Alicia / Dec 6 2005 3:52 am

    That’s a little over the top, don’t you think?
    I’d say they’ve realized that a) anonymous posts are more likely to be untrustworthy, and b) the community could get more entries in if it had less policing to do. It’s not like you need to give your SSN and blood type to log in, you could set up a different account for each IP address if you really wanted to.

  2. Jonathan Nolen / Dec 6 2005 4:00 am

    Well, like I said, I don’t think that it’s really going hurt anything in practice. It’s just a small falling away from their ideals. Which is probably inevitable, but a little sad to see it happening.
    (Yes, the headline was over-the-top. But I liked the way it sounded.)

  3. Ilya Haykinson / Dec 6 2005 8:32 am

    *sigh* Why is almost any news about Wikipedia always sensationalist and nearly always wrong? It’s as if Jimbo doesn’t give enough interviews that people latch on to every word of his.
    Wikipedia isn’t going to restict anonymous editing. Indeed, there was never anonymous editing: all editing was always attributed either to a pseudonym (a username) or an IP address — neither of these truly hide one’s identity; one can argue that an IP address is actually exposing more than a username.
    What Wikipedia is doing is running a short experiment to see if asking for usernames to be created will add the small bump in complexity that will drive away a few more casual vandals, but won’t prevent anyone semi-serious, and would make patrolling for vandalism easier. After all, making a username doesn’t even require an email address.

  4. Jonathan Nolen / Dec 6 2005 5:45 pm

    Ilya, thanks for the clarification. That is definitely a different ball of wax. I wish the article had been more clear. I’ll correct my post.

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