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Wikis: a brief history

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 5 months ago

Wikis: a brief history


Wikis are web applications which enable multiple authors to add, remove, and edit content in a process of collaborative authoring - usually through WYSIWYG controls that resemble those of a word processor or blog. First employed in 1995 on WikiWikiWeb, within a few years wiki technology was being used by businesses as collaborative software, examples including project communication, intranets, and documentation.


From 2001 onwards Wikipedia played a significant part in popularising the technology, and there are currently hundreds of wikis covering topics ranging from geology and physics to food and travel. The growth of wikis is also facilitated by a range of free wiki hosting services (known as wiki farms) as well as open source wiki software. Setting up a wiki is now as easy as setting up a blog.


A wiki can contain one or more pages, and users can add pages if they feel it is necessary. In addition to the current version of a wiki page wikis can include a number of other important features, including:

  • a system whereby authors are notified of changes to pages and can revert to older versions if necessary
  • permissions, whereby users may have different levels of editorial control. Some wikis also include password protection, so only users who know the password can edit a page.
  • records of previous versions of the page, so users can see how the subject has changed over time
  • discussion pages, where authors can discuss the subject and reach consensus on page contents
  • the ability to include an "edit summary" when a page is edited - a short piece of text explaining what has been done and why

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