Internet

Wikipedia blocked in China?

The free encyclopedia Wikipedia seems to be blocked in China. Could this be a consequence of a recent story on Yahoo news?

Excerpt from the Yahoo story:

An informal group of Chinese volunteers is working to build an online encyclopedia called Chinese Wikipedia to create a free source of information for Chinese Internet users.

Chinese Wikipedia is a Chinese-language offshoot of Wikipedia, an online English-language encyclopedia that is also available in a host of other languages. Wikipedia is a wiki, a term that is derived from the Hawaiian word for "quick" and used to describe Web sites that can be edited by any reader, including anonymous visitors.

Work on Wikipedia started in early 2001 and the project now has more than 6000 active contributors working on 600,000 entries in 50 languages, according to the Wikipedia Web site, which notes the English version offers more than 260,000 entries. All of the content on Wikipedia is copyrighted under the GNU Free Documentation License, a license for free content developed by the Free Software Foundation.

By any measure of common sense, Wikipedia and Chinese Wikipedia shouldn't work. The wiki format allows any visitor to the Chinese Wikipedia Web site, or that of its English-language cousin, to modify any of the pages in the encyclopedia by adding, changing, or deleting information.

In theory, an Internet vandal could come to the site and easily deface or delete entries to the encyclopedia, wasting the efforts of numerous volunteers and rendering Chinese Wikipedia unusable. But wikis are essentially online databases of information and each modification is stored in the database, allowing information to be restored to the Web site if a page is deleted or defaced.

"The instantaneous editability surely is an attractive quality that will impact the future of Chinese cyberspace culture," says Menchi, a regular contributor to Chinese Wikipedia who requested his real name not be used for this story, in an e-mail interview.

Wikipedia is here, but click here if you are living under the stern gaze of the Celestial Nanny. The Yahoo story is here (thanks to Bonny Vegas for the Yahoo link).

UPDATE (June 25, 2004): Wikipedia is accessible again from China.

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