from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikipedia source code (example)
Simple wikitext examples in TiddlyWiki edit mode

A wiki ( Hawaiian for "fast"), more rarely also called WikiWiki or WikiWeb , is a website whose content can not only be read by visitors, but also edited and changed directly in the web browser ( Web 2.0 application).

The goal is often to collect experience and knowledge collectively ( collective intelligence ) and to document it in a form that is understandable for the target group. For this purpose , the authors jointly develop texts , which may be supplemented with photos or other media ( collaborative writing , e-collaboration ). This is made possible by a simplified content management system , the so-called Wiki software or Wiki engine . Similar to a multi-dimensional spreadsheet in a spreadsheet , the user interface is divided into a frame with menu and 4 pages, two of which can be written and changed in read-write mode (article page and discussion page) and two in read-only mode for version and comment documentation in batch form.

The best-known wiki is the online encyclopedia Wikipedia , which uses the wiki software MediaWiki . In addition, many companies also use wikis as part of the knowledge management system on their intranet (across locations), see Enterprise Wiki . A single document, a wiki page, can be changed with just a few clicks (button edit and button save or publish ). For this purpose, the wiki page is mostly saved in the form of wikitext , an easy-to-learn markup language.

The figure above right shows the wikitext of this wiki page in edit mode.

Definition of wiki in Andrews' A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language (1865)


Visualization of the collaborative work on the wiki project "Math for Non-Freaks"

As a major difference to other content management systems (CMS), Wiki software offers fewer design options for the layout and design of the websites. The primary function, on the other hand, is an editing mode for every wiki page, which allows even a novice to change the text and content of the page without much training. For this purpose, the wiki page is often opened in the edit mode in a WYSIWYG editor or displayed in an easy-to-learn, simplified markup language ( e.g. Wikitext ) (or optionally both). As a rule, both variants allow in particular font marking , linking , lists and enumerations as well as the possibility of transclusions for repeated content.

In contrast to the content management systems with their part precisely defined workflows (. English workflows ) as in content management systems, wikis rely on the philosophy of open access: Ideally, every user can read each entry and editing. Wikis are considered to have an advantage over a classic CMS if a large number of users enter information so that a critical mass is achieved in the medium and it becomes a "sure-fire success". However, there are also wiki systems that allow access control (e.g. via the access control list ) for certain pages and user groups (e.g. departments of a company).

An essential function of most wiki products is version management , which allows users to quickly restore a previous version of a page in the event of errors or vandalism , which can hardly be avoided due to open access .

As is usual with hypertexts, the individual pages of a wiki are linked by cross-references ( hyperlinks ); the title of a page usually also serves as a link address. Links to nonexistent pages are then not displayed as errors, but a form appears to create the new page. Networking with other popular wiki services is partly made possible by so-called InterWiki links.

Most systems are released as free software , often under a version of the common GNU General Public License (GPL). Many wiki software systems have a modular structure and offer their own programming interface , which enables the user to write their own extensions without knowing the entire source code.

A wiki can be made publicly available on the World Wide Web , used in local networks only for a specific user group (e.g. as an intranet) or used on a single computer for personal information organization, for example in the form of a desktop wiki. Examples of desktop wiki software are AcroWiki for Palm OS , Tomboy and Zim for Linux , VoodooPad for macOS , Gluebox (platform-independent), ConnectedText and WikidPad for Windows , as well as TiddlyWiki , the client-side (without server) as JavaScript in every browser running.

History and Applications

The development of the wiki as a medium is closely linked to the World Wide Web . It was only through this that it became a successful model, even if its forerunners go back to the 1970s. The fact that the pages can be changed by anyone also consistently implements an original idea of ​​the World Wide Web.

In software development, the immense benefit of wikis for effective knowledge management in a collaborative environment was first recognized, which is probably due to the employees' affinity for technology. A wiki system can be used in software development, in particular the creation of documentation, to manage software errors or to coordinate among software developers. The first wikis were developed in the mid-1990s by software designers for product management in IT projects. Wikis play a key role, particularly in development projects for open source software - for example at Apache or - in which people across continents work together. Today, wikis are used in a variety of applications where flexibility in content counts more than a representative layout. This includes documentaries in business, science and culture.


One of the first forerunners of the wiki was the ZOG database system developed at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1972 , which was designed for several users and presented the data in structured text frames; they were connected by hyperlinks .

This system was expanded in 1981 by Donald McCracken and Robert Akscyn to the Knowledge Management System (KMS), in which changes to the data sheets were immediately visible throughout the network. Graphics and images could already be integrated into this system, and hyperlinks could also be added to them.

The Document Examiner by Janet Walker , which was used from 1985 to display computer instructions, was also based on ZOG . This hypertext system , in which the texts were displayed in a scrollable screen window, was further developed by Xerox into the Note Cards system in the same year , from which Apple's HyperCard system emerged in 1987 (initially under the name WildCard ).

Ward Cunningham , inventor of the wiki

This system influenced Ward Cunningham decisively in his WikiWikiWeb , as it already enabled different types of cards , of which a group could stand for users, one for projects and one for the ideas themselves. In Cunningham's further development of the system, it was also possible to create new maps by clicking on links to non-existent content.

Tim Berners-Lee , who made decisive contributions to HTML and the World Wide Web from 1989 , had similar ideas when he started working on hypertext systems, since in his opinion this instrument should be used primarily for the collaborative creation of texts in the scientific community. As a result, Berners-Lee's first web browser WorldWideWeb (1990/1991) was suitable for both displaying and editing websites. From a historical perspective, he describes his ideas in his book “Weaving The Web” (German loan transfer “The Web Report”). Nevertheless, the non-collaborative creation of websites initially prevailed on the web, which was achieved through restrictive user rights for the pages on the servers.

The WikiWikiWeb

The first real wiki hosted on the web, WikiWikiWeb , was designed by US software author Ward Cunningham as a knowledge management tool as part of the design pattern theory in 1994 based on the HyperCard systems. It dealt with software design in the context of object-oriented programming . On March 25, 1995, it was made available to the public on the Internet.

Wiki-Wiki bus at Honolulu Airport

Cunningham chose the name because when he arrived at the airport on Oahu he got to know the name Wiki Wiki for the express bus there. He took on the doubling, which in Hawaiian stands for an increase ("very fast"). Cunningham continues to regard Wiki as an abbreviation for the actual name WikiWikiWeb .

Cunningham's concept attracted a great deal of interest in the software development community and it grew quickly. In December 1995 the pages of WikiWikiWeb already had 2.4 MB of storage space, at the end of 1997 it was 10 MB and at the end of 2000 62 MB.

Wikis in the late 1990s

The first clones of the software were created shortly after the WikiWikiWeb was commissioned . Wikis quickly became a popular tool in the free software scene , where they were used as a tool to support communication and idea organization among developers. Cunningham also supported this development by publishing his own clone of his software, called Wiki Base . However, tension soon arose between WikiWikiWeb and some clones, as Cunningham expected Wiki Base users to add their own enhancements to the source code of his own wiki, which rarely happened.

One of the most important clones of Wiki Base was CvWiki, written by Peter Merel in 1997 . This resulted in the UseModWiki in 1999, which is still used today in the MeatballWiki , one of the most popular software wikis. UseModWiki was also Wikipedia's wiki engine in the early days, until it was replaced by MediaWiki in 2002.

In 1998, TWiki, the first wiki software based on text files, was published. This system is particularly suitable for smaller wikis (e.g. desktop and company wikis), in which higher performance can be achieved. In 1999, PhpWiki, the first wiki engine based on the PHP programming language, appeared .

Until 2001, wikis as a medium were largely restricted to the software development scene, so public interest in them outside of this specialized scene was limited. Nevertheless, collaborative web portals with similar goals as Everything2 have already been developed with other software concepts. The first real wiki portal developed on a topic other than software was the online travel guide World66 , founded in 1999 by a Dutch company that was one of the first to try to integrate the concept of free content into a profitable business model .

Between 1998 and 2000, there was tension in the WikiWikiWeb itself as the contributions diverged further and further from the original topic of the wiki. This led to a confrontation between two groups: While the WikiReductionists wanted the Wiki to continue to focus on object-oriented software programming , in the opinion of the WikiConstructionists there should also be room for other, more general topics in WikiWikiWeb, especially for those that support the Wiki Related to the concept as such (so-called WikiOnWiki topics ). This led to the split in 2000 and the establishment of the MeatballWiki , which, in addition to discussing the wiki idea itself, also dealt with more general topics such as copyright or the cyberpunk movement. The MeatballWiki and several other websites that arose in this dispute were called SisterSites and linked directly from the WikiWikiWeb. Numerous ideas originate from this wiki, which should promote the popularization of the wiki idea, such as the TourBusStop , a tour through various wikis, the WikiNode as the hub of a wiki and the WikiIndex as a database of all wikis as possible.

Wikipedia and the popularization of the concept: 2001 to 2005

The popularization of the wiki concept goes back to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia . Between 1999 and 2000 the American company Bomis developed the idea of ​​an encyclopedia created on the Internet . The Nupedia project, which was started in 2000, was initially unsuccessful, as the process of creating the entries was based on the peer review process and was therefore very tedious. Towards the end of the year, Bomis founder Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, who is employed by Wales, developed a wiki extension that went online on January 15, 2001 on the separate domain and was still in the course of the year, especially according to a report in the online magazine Slashdot , developed into a great success. In the same year other language versions were launched. By 2005, the number of pages grew to over a million and Wikipedia became one of the most visited websites ever.

To meet the growing demands of Wikipedia, the MediaWiki software was developed in 2002. As an innovation, it introduced that the links could for the first time contain free text; before that, the so-called CamelCase spelling was common, in which the words were not separated by spaces. MediaWiki was especially designed for scalability in order to cope with the rapidly increasing number of users.

In the years that followed, new wiki-based web portals were set up, partly from the Wikipedia, but partly also from the Meatball community. This included the Enciclopedia Libre , a spin-off from the Spanish-language Wikipedia , , a Swedish-language mixture of encyclopedia and web forum, the online travel guide Wikitravel founded in 2003 , the SourceWatch project for the documentation of lobby organizations and the sister projects of the Wikipedia wikis denoted Wikinews , Wiktionary , Wikibooks , Wikisource , Wikiquote, and Wikispecies . The wiki concept was adapted to different types of texts, with varying degrees of success. A first noteworthy modification of the Wikipedia concept was developed in 2003 with Wikinfo , in which different perspectives on the various topics were allowed; however, the success clearly lagged behind that of Wikipedia.

Commercial wiki farms , which often offer their services free of charge, have gradually resulted in a wiki for almost every possible topic. The so-called fan wikis , which - in addition to the lexical treatise - made a new form of collaboratively created fan fiction possible were a particularly great success . In particular in the science fiction (e.g. Memory Alpha ), fantasy and comic sectors , some wikis were able to achieve high numbers of articles and participants. Wikis such as Uncyclopedia , Stupidedia and Kamelopedia have also established themselves in the area of humor .

Wikis as mass media: development from 2005

The success of Wikipedia led to various efforts to improve the wiki concept. In the area of ​​wikis conceived as an encyclopedia, Ulrich Fuchs and Larry Sanger independently developed the projects Wikiweise and Citizendium , in which the wiki concept is restricted and instead a quality improvement is to be achieved through a system that is closer to the traditional editorial working method. At Citizendium, each article has its own responsible supervisor who is known by real name. However, both projects have so far been denied a resounding success.

Another development is the expansion of traditional web portals of various types with wiki functions. Anyone interested can post texts in the knowledge portal Google Knol and determine whether or not they release their content for collaborative editing in the wiki style. The scholarly wiki Scholarpedia is based on a similar concept , which is limited to a few special topics and severely restricts the opportunities for non-specialist participants to participate.

Computer-generated databases have been created on the basis of wiki since about 2005 and can be edited and improved by web users. These wikis are usually very structured and use templates to a large extent. Well-known representatives of this wiki form are the web directory , the Open Directory Project extension Chainki and the proprietary music database CDWiki . Wikis were even used to market Internet advertising, such as WikiFox (now discontinued) and ShoppiWiki .

The wiki concept was expanded to include the display of content popular from 2005, such as web videos, and prepared for future Internet phenomena such as the semantic web .

In March 2007 the word wiki was added to the Oxford English Dictionary .

A number of Regiowikis have been specially set up for individual cities and their subject areas. The Stadtwiki Karlsruhe was the largest in the world for a long time .

Wikis in organizations: development from 2007

Corporate wikis

Spurred on by the success of Wikipedia, many companies have started to set up corporate wikis in order to collect the knowledge of their employees within the company and make it transparent ( knowledge management ). The commitment of the employees may be indispensable here. In contrast, the financial outlay is usually lower than with conventional systems for preserving knowledge. The use of wikis tends to be more promising with flat hierarchies and in a corporate culture that is as open as possible .

Dissemination of corporate wikis

In 2008, for example, 41% of the top 50 Finnish companies used or tested wikis, and a further 18% were open to using wikis.

According to a study by Forrester Research, the use of corporate wikis in the context of Enterprise 2.0 will increase roughly tenfold from 2007 to 2013. The Gartner management consultancy estimated that around half of the companies installed a wiki in 2009.

Classification of corporate wikis

In principle, company-internal wikis can be divided into two groups:

  • Company or department wikis try to capture the knowledge of a company or department.
  • Project- related wikis, on the other hand, are specially tailored to a single project. Like the associated projects, they often only have a limited lifespan and are often only intended to be accessible to a certain group of people.

Some wikis combine both types and enable so-called spaces to be set up in order to separate projects from one another in terms of content and user rights.

Wikis in the education sector

Many schools and universities now use their own wikis. In 2010 there were WikiWebs at more than 34% of all universities in Germany.

Wiki of the history of technology

The world's largest technical professional association, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), with a focus on electrical engineering and computer science, founded a sub-organization called the IEEE Global History Network in 2008 . A wiki-based, English-language, freely accessible online database with historical content of the technical history of these departments was created. This includes development milestones as well as oral and written personal experience reports. In 2015, the IEEE Global History Network was incorporated into the broader-based organization Engineering and Technology History Wiki of the most important technical US professional societies and will be continued there.

Wikis as political instruments: development from 2007

In Austria, following the resolution of the government program of the grand coalition between SPÖ and ÖVP in 2007, the Green parliamentary group set up a website for civil society reformulation of the government program. The party promises to take into account the suggestions formulated therein, should it enter into government negotiations.

On July 11, 2009, the Institute for Portuguese Democracy (IDP) launched the Constituição 2.0 project in Portugal . Based on the example of Wikipedia, a new Portuguese constitution is to be created collectively with the Wiki system .

In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz the idea is taken up as a possibility for the creation of a constitution for Israel .

To select a suitable wiki software

Wiki software can help to structure and document knowledge within an organization and thus make it more easily available and usable. In this way, knowledge transfer becomes more independent of direct interpersonal contact. A wiki can also serve to make organizational structures up to informal networks and experts as contact persons transparent. The choice of suitable wiki software depends on the structure of the organization as well as on the specific purpose. The requirements for wiki software can include the following in particular.

user friendliness

  • Wiki systems support the editing of content differently (e.g. by means of a WYSIWYG editor).
  • In a company, the login can be synchronized with the login to other software systems (LDAP authentication).
  • A connection to the office software used can make it possible to directly edit and version text or table documents stored in the wiki.
  • Templates can support the creation of similar structured wiki entries.

Knowledge management functions

  • Content is systematized by assigning it to specific categories and tags.
  • If possible, the search function searches not only the wiki pages themselves, but also text or table documents stored in the wiki.
  • Discussion pages are used to compare knowledge and exchange meta-knowledge about a wiki entry or text.
  • Information stored in the company's ERP system can be linked.
  • For quality assurance, it may be necessary for a document to be approved before it is published (workflow).

User rights management

It may be necessary to ensure that only certain user groups have read access to certain pages. Certain users will also have to be able to assign extended rights, e.g. B. to be able to take on the role of administrator.

Investment security

The widespread use of wiki software helps to secure the investment in the long term. It can be read from how many references there are and whether there is an active user community.

See also


  • Jérome Delacroix: Les wikis: espaces de l'intelligence collective. M2 Editions, Paris 2005. ISBN 2-9520514-4-5 .
  • Anja Ebersbach, Markus Glaser, Richard Heigl: WikiTools. Cooperation on the web. Springer, Berlin 2005. ISBN 3-540-22939-6 .
  • Christian Eigner, Helmut Leitner, Peter Nauser: Online communities, weblogs and the social recapture of the network, Nausser & Nausser, Graz 2003. ISBN 3-901402-37-3 .
  • Dave Johnson: Blogs, wikis and feeds in action. Manninng 2005. ISBN 1-932394-49-4 .
  • Jane Klobas: Wikis - Tools for Information Work and Collaboration. Chandos Publishing, Oxford 2006. ISBN 1-84334-178-6 .
  • Christoph Lange (Ed.): Wikis and blogs - planning, setting up, managing. Computer- und Literaturverlag , Böblingen 2007. ISBN 3-936546-44-4 .
  • Bo Leuf, Ward Cunningham: The Wiki Way - Quick Collaboration on the Web. Addison-Wesley, Harlow / Munich 2001. ISBN 0-201-71499-X .
  • Erik Möller : The secret media revolution - How weblogs, wikis and free software are changing the world. Heise, Hannover 2004. ISBN 3-936931-16-X .
  • Monika Neumayer: Weblogs & Wikis - From the sewing box of virtual networking. In: Christina Schachtner (Ed.): Successful in Cyberspace. Handbook of women's and girls' virtual networks. Budrich, Opladen 2005. ISBN 3-938094-40-0 .
  • Konstantin Zurawski: Bidding on the knowledge exchange . In: Image of Science. Leinfelden-Echterdingen 2007, 11, p. 104ff. ISSN  0006-2375
  • Johannes Moskaliuk (Ed.): Construction and communication of knowledge with wikis. Hülsbusch, Boizenburg 2008. ISBN 3-940317-29-2 .
  • Steward Mader: Wikipatterns . Ed .: Wiley. 2007, ISBN 978-0-470-22362-8 (English, ).

Web links

Commons : Wiki  album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: Wiki  quotes
Wiktionary: Wiki  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. wiki in Hawaiian Dictionaries , wikiwiki in Hawaiian Dictionaries
  2. Richard Cyganiak: Wiki and WCMS: A comparison (PDF; 72 kB), page 3.
  3. ^ Anja Ebersbach, Markus Glaser, Richard Heigl: WikiTools . Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2005, ISBN 3-540-22939-6 .
  4. WikiWikiHypercard.
  5. Tim Berners-Lee, Mark Fischetti: Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web (German. The Web Report. The creator of the World Wide Web on the boundless potential of the Internet. From the American by Beate Majetschak. Econ, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-430-11468-3 ). Chapter 1.
  6. WikiHistory on
  7. Interview with Kim Bruning at Wikimania on Wikinews .
  8. Interview with Ward Cunningham on Google Video.
  9. ^ Ward Cunningham_ Correspondence on the Etymology of Wiki.
  10. a b Wiki History at
  11. Andy Szybalski: Why it's not a wiki world (yet) . (PDF; 238 kB) March 14, 2005.
  12. WikiReductionists at
  13. Wiki-wise project. ( Memento from June 20, 2009 in the Internet Archive ).
  14. ShoppiWiki.
  15. New Words March 2007 , Oxford English Dictionary.
  16. F. Miller, T. Pfeiffer: How to Bring a Wiki to Life. Knowledge management. The magazine for executives, issue 1/2009.
  17. Who uses wikis and why .
  18. ^ O. Young: Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast: 2007 To 2013 . Quoted from Computerwoche online on April 21, 2008: “Forrester: In five years, companies will pay ten times more for Web 2.0 than today”, , seen on February 8, 2010.
  19. Michael Leitl: Do wikis threaten the power of managers? Interview with Jimbo Wales, Harvard Business Manager, June 2008, p.12.
  20. The commercial wiki tool " Confluence " from Atlassian (classification of the provider as "Enterprise Wiki") combines company or department wikis and project-related wikis: it enables the creation of so-called spaces to separate projects from one another in terms of content and user rights. Access to anonymous, named users and user groups can be controlled using various user rights.
  21. ^ About wikis at universities in Germany - attempt to systematize wiki usage (PDF), accessed on March 8, 2010.
  22. ( Memento from September 5, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Wiki page for the public reformulation of the government program of the Austrian government 2007.
  23. ^ Website of the Instituto da Democracia Portuguesa (IDP) ( Memento of July 28, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) accessed on July 20, 2009 (Portuguese).
  24. Cnaan Liphshiz: Should Israel let wiki-users draft its constitution? ( Memento from September 22, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) In: Haaretz . July 19, 2009, accessed May 26, 2019.
  25. Florian Adler, Ingo Frost, Daphne Gross: The agony of Wiki choice: Wikis for knowledge management in organizations . Pumacy Technologies AG, August 9, 2011.