What is a wiki

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Icon objectives.jpg Objectives
In this tutorial we will:
  • provide an overview of what wikis are,
  • and show some examples of their different uses.
  • discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using wikis to develop content
  • describe the main features of WikiEducator

What is a Wiki?

Wiki wiki sign outside Honolulu International Airport. (Image courtesy of A. Barataz)
The name "Wiki" was chosen by Ward Cunningham -- the creator of the first Wiki. It is a shortened form of "wiki-wiki", the Hawaiian word for quick.

A wiki is a web site that is generally editable by anyone with a computer, a web browser, and an internet connection. Wikis use a quick and easy syntax to allow users to apply formatting to text and create links between pages. This simple formatting syntax means that authors no longer need to learn the complexities of HTML to create content on the web.

The main strength of a wiki is that it gives people the ability to work collaboratively on the same document. The only software you need is an Internet browser. Consequently, wikis are used for a variety of purposes. If you make a mistake, it's easy to revert back to an earlier version of the document.

Examples of Wikis

Wikis are fun as attested by this WikiEducator user from Barbados

The largest and most talked about Wiki on the Internet is Wikipedia[1]

Wikipedia is, for the most part, editable by anyone in the world with a computer and an internet connection and, as of Nov 2008, contained over 10,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages. Two and a half million pages in English! There are also more than 250,000 articles in German, French, Polish, and Japanese; and more than 100,000 articles in Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portugese, Russian, Swedish, and Chinese. While Wikipedia's mission is to create an encyclopedic resource of knowledge, wikis can be used for a variety of purposes and are quickly becoming the defacto technology for collaborative group work online. They can be great social tools for classrooms, teams, community groups, or can even be configured to provide easily updatable web sites for organisations.

The following wikis display a range of different applications of wiki technology:

  • Wikitravel[2] - a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable world-wide travel guide.
  • WikiWikiWeb[3] - the first ever wiki, it has been around since 1995.
  • AKOWiki[4] - an evolving site to provide a bit of help with technology, ideas and teaching to staff in an institution. Lots of single issue pages, not much hyper linking.
  • Scholarpedia[5] - a wiki project based on a system of peer review.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org
  2. http://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page Wikitravel
  3. http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WelcomeVisitors WikiWikiWeb
  4. http://akowiki.canterbury.ac.nz AKOWiki
  5. http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Main_Page Scholarpedia