“Wikipedia represents an enormous missed opportunity,” writes founder Dr Larry Sanger. “It is sloppy, incomplete, and—yes—small.” Sanger has been a vocal critic of Wikipedia for a long time. He tried to improve on Wikipedia with Citizendium where, unlike Wikipedia, authors used their real, verified names. Citizendium’s FAQ described Wikipedia’s process “as part anarchy, part mob rule” where the “community allows anonymous contribution” resulting in “amateurish” articles, that are “disconnected grab-bags of factoids, with no coherent narrative”.
But Sanders, himself the founder of Wikipedia, realized that creating a finer encyclopedia wasn’t going to be easy. So after years of deliberation, he said that he “enthusiastically agreed” to work with Sam Kazemian, CEO of Everipedia, an online encyclopedia, as its Chief Information Officer, when they decided to build the project on blockchain.
While Everipedia’s articles might not be any more qualitatively satisfying than Wikipedia, their blockchain idea interested Sanger. Blockchain is half the pitch for a lot of startups these days. There’s even a game designed to make it easier for people to understand it. Everipedia, for its part, is hoping to build an encyclopedia more powerful than Wikipedia using the same technology.
While previously reliant on advertisement and against the idea of donations, Everipedia is thinking of ways to monetize itself. As of now, Everipedia has raised a Series A $30 million funding led by Galaxy Digital LP in February.
Spot the Difference
Everipedia is built on the shoulders of Wikipedia. This means that just as Wikipedia was built on a foundation of articles from Britannica.com, Everipedia is built on Wikipedia’s articles. As an add-on, Everipedia asks its editors to improve the articles.
And here’s where the differences come in. Unlike Wikipedia, Everipedia is not a gatekeeper. Anyone can make a page on it, as long as it’s cited. What this means is that instagram stars whose pages are deleted by Wikipedia for lack of notability can find acceptance here. Everipedia is also marketed towards the Instagram audience. Founder Kazimein has said that “we want to do for knowledge aggregation what Instagram did for photo sharing”. And in accordance with its demographic, it has tried to make things cooler by adding a social media like interface and allowing memes and GIFs on its pages. It also allows celebrities to list their social handles on their pages, make a verifiable account, and interact with fans.
The result of which, Everipedia, a for-profit unlike Wikipedia has become the world’s biggest English-language encyclopedia with over six million articles. As of writing this article, there were 5,670,674 articles in the English Wikipedia while Everipedia has over six million.
Building Knowledge Block By Block
Another major difference is Everipedia’s utilization of the Blockchain technology. Each edit proposal in Everipedia is sent and stored in an IPFS node – which is an InterPlanetary File System that among other things secures content, removes duplicates, and tracks history.
Everipedia’s founders believe that the decentralization offered by Blockchain will help create an incentivized “peer-to-peer network for submitting, curating, and governing a database of encyclopedia articles.” This decentralized server also means that users in Turkey or Iran, where Wikipedia is banned, can access it.
Everipedia also utilizes a rewarding system where editors who have approved edits win something called ‘IQ Tokens”. Everypedia airdropped – distributed tokens to existing cryptocurrency holders – tokens in June. The token gets attached to their cryptocurrency, but every time the editor propose an edit to a page, s/he has to stake a small amount of token as collateral. If the other editors in the community approve that edit, the editor who has proposed the change gets the token back and earns some more on top of it, but if they dismiss that proposed edit, then the editor loses that tokens. Like Wikipedia, the community holds each other accountable but unlike Wikipedia where thousands of editors labour for free, Everipedia’s editors get an incentive to be an active part of the community on the site.
Encyclopedia of Errors
However, Everipedia’s editing process has not been foolproof. It has been accused of focussing on trends unlike Wikipedia’s desire to write history. It has also been called out for its flimsy rules which only focus on citation and ignore the monumental responsibility that comes with calling something an encyclopedia. The criticism isn’t unwarranted. The editors have repeatedly made grave, unpardonable errors. Like on the night of October 1, 2017, an Everipedia editor misidentified the shooter of the Mandalay Bay Resort mass shooting. Another time, the Outline reported, Everipedia misidentified the driver of the Dodge Challenger that slammed into a crowd of counter-demonstrators in Charlottesville. Not only this, they created a page for the misidentified driver replete with his social media handles which remains online to date (but is now corrected).
But the charm of Everipedia lies in the fact that anyone can create a page and not face deletion. This is what got Everipedia team member Mahbod Moghadam to join the team. While he is often credited as being the founder, he, in fact, joined the startup after being approached by Kazemien.
It was Sam Kazemian and Theodor Forselius who founded Everipedia in 2014 when they were studying at UCLA. They read Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham’s blog post “Startup Ideas We’d Like to Fund” where he argued that ‘deletionists rule Wikipedia’ and called for “more alternatives to Wikipedia” saying that “there is room to do to Wikipedia what Wikipedia did to Britannica”.
Moghadam recalls that he was approached by Kazemien, who showed him his Everipedia page and immediately impressed him. Moghadam had been trying to get his own Wikipedia page for years but kept facing deletion. Moghadam says that he immediately saw Kazemien’s vision. Some years later in December 2017 – in a move that makes Everipedia even more credible – they would add another team member. This time the founder of their competitor, Wikipedia.
If information is power, Wikipedia wields a big chunk of it. Its competitors have tried to topple it from its seat of influence and cause a well-meaning dispersion of power, but it still remains the most credible source. But for those with an interest and thirst for knowledge, new entrants are always welcome.