Wikipedia is a household brand. It exists as today’s main web portal for knowledge. But it’s also growing old, both in terms of design and user experience. New AI experiences will drive a lot of people away from search engines and web portals, thus away from Wikipedia. AI may also generate its own dynamic Wikipedia-like databases and servers, making the Wikipedia project less central and resourceful. Less online search and more auto-generated intelligence may lead to the end of Wikipedia as we know it today.
10 years from now, what will be the motivation to visit and edit Wikipedia ? Will the rabbit hole experience be replaced by some enhanced AI-driven discovery system ? Will humans still create content for themselves ? There’s no certain answer here, but acute pessimism is widely allowed in this debate.
So Wikipedia will have to repurpose itself at some point, because it can’t just ignore that trends are shifting away from its territory. What it may and will become is terra incognita, but one question pops when thinking about Wikipedia’s survival strategy : Should its name remain Wikipedia ?
The portmanteau word Wikipedia (wiki – encyclopedia) conveys two archaic terms that regular consumers do not demand.
Wiki is the CMS type that Wikipedia runs on. Aside from Wikipedia and its niche competitors, Wikis were never a big deal (unlike blogs for example), and Wikipedia is the only example of a wiki-based website to gain global recognition. Wiki is a funny-sounding word but it does not convey a sense of breakthrough technology. All the companies using the word “blog” in their name disappeared for a good reason…
Pedia, cut out from the word encyclopedia, sounds ancient. My generation (80s kid) still knows what an encyclopedia is, but 99% of the people born after 2000 probably never touched an encyclopedia in their lives, simple because there’s no need to anymore.
So Wiki+pedia may have worked superbly well in 2001 when it launched the transition from paper to digital encyclopedia, but 20 years later, Wiki+pedia sounds old and inadequate. The recent disparition of the name Twitter from the digital cartography – while a bit disturbing – is proof that such changes do sometimes happen.
The Wikipedia team may be attached to its visual identity, and changing it could dramatically impact the website’s audience (but isn’t doomed to shrink anyway?). I ran a test when I made the logo for Wiki Editor (simple jigsaw piece) and nobody made the connection with the Wikipedia logo, because people don’t even notice that the Wikipedia logo is a spherical jigsaw puzzle. There’s some things we are so used to see that we don’t look at them anymore. That tells me taking a leap in switching Wikipedia’s identity may be less painful than we imagine.