Encarta ended, Wikipedia wins


Microsoft’s encyclopedia software, Encarta, has finally had its plug pulled. In June, the software products will disappear, and on October 31st 2009, the website will go too. Japan gets slightly longer, until December 31st 2009.

Microsoft has an FAQ page dedicated to the subject, which sets out why the project is getting axed: “The category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past.”

Basically, it’s saying ‘people use Wikipedia, so we’re giving up’. Fair enough, I suppose – it’s increasingly difficult to cope with the crowdsourced project, and it’s good that Microsoft isn’t kidding itself that it can compete, like it is with Games for Windows.

What I’ll miss most from Encarta is Mindmaze, which I spent many happy hours on at school once I’d got past the orbital simulator and had enough of listening to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

Mindmaze was a quiz where you had to travel through a medieval dungeon answering questions to progress. It featured inappropriate cleavage (pictured) as well as insane non-sequiturs from the court jester stood on a big blue box and the creepiest alchemist ever. Ahh… happy days.

(via Ars Technica)

Encyclopaedia Britannica admits defeat – allows users to add content


Encyclopaedia Britannica has for years resisted pressure to join Wikipedia in allowing just anyone to submit content – relying instead on 100 full-time editors and 4,000 ‘expert contributors’. As a result, it’s slow to react to events and studies have shown that it’s comparably error-ridden .

In the next 24 hours, however, the Encyclopaedia’s website will begin accepting user-generated content. However, it still won’t be as free as Wikipedia – any changes or additions will have to be vetted by the site’s “experts”, and any would-be editors will have to register their real name and address(!) before being allowed to contribute.

Still, any changes made will eventually appear in the printed version of the Encylopaedia, which only gets reprinted every two years. I’ll stick with editing Wikipedia, thanks, and take my chances with the spammer police, endless bureaucracy and edit wars.

Encyclopaedia Britannica (via Sydney Morning Herald)