What is a Wiki?


A wiki is a website that allows visitors to add, remove, edit and change content, typically without the need for registration. It also allows for linking among any number of pages. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring. The term wiki can also refer to the collaborative software itself (wiki engine) that facilitates the operation of such a site, or to specific wiki sites, including the computer science site WikiWikiWeb (the original wiki) and online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia.

Wiki Wiki sign at Honolulu International Airport WikiWikiWeb was the first such site to be called a wiki. Ward Cunningham started developing WikiWikiWeb in 1994 and installed it on Internet domain on March 25, 1995. It was named by Cunningham, who remembered a Honolulu International Airport counter employee telling him to take the so-called "Wiki Wiki" Chance RT-52 shuttle bus line that runs between the airport's terminals. According to Cunningham, "I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for 'quick' and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web."
Wiki Wiki is a reduplication of wiki, a Hawaiian-language word for fast. The word wiki is a shorter form of wiki wiki (IPA /wiːkiː wiːkiː/).

The word is sometimes interpreted as the "backronym" for what I know is, which describes the knowledge contribution, storage, and the exchange function.

According to Cunningham, the idea of "Wiki" can be traced back to a HyperCard stack he wrote in the late 1980s.
In the early 2000s, wikis were increasingly adopted in the enterprise as collaborative software. Common uses included project communication, intranets, and documentation, initially for technical users. Today some companies use wikis as their only collaborative software and as a replacement for static intranets. There may be greater use of wikis behind firewalls than on the public Internet.

On March 15, 2007, wiki entered the Oxford English Dictionary Online.

Key characteristics

A wiki enables documents to be written very collaboratively, in a simple markup language using a web browser. A single page in a wiki is referred to as a "wiki page", while the entire body of pages, which are usually highly interconnected via hyperlinks, is "the wiki". A wiki is actually a very simple, easy-to-use user-maintained database for creating, browsing and searching information.

A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted. Many wikis are open to the general public without the need to register any user account. Sometimes session log-in is requested to acquire a "wiki-signature" cookie for autosigning edits. Many edits, however, can be made in real-time, and appear almost instantaneously online. This can lead to abuse of the system. Private wiki servers require user authentication to edit, sometimes even to read pages.

Pages and editing

The source format, sometimes known as "wikitext'", is augmented with a simplified markup language to indicate various structural and visual conventions. An often used example of one such convention is to start a line of text with an asterisk ("*") in order to mark it as an item in a bulleted list. Style and syntax can vary a great deal among implementations, some of which also allow HTML tags.

The reasoning behind this design is that HTML, with its many cryptic tags, is not especially human-readable. Making typical HTML source visible makes the actual text content very hard to read and edit for most users. It is therefore better to promote plain-text editing with a few simple conventions for structure and style.

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