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In their book The Wiki Way: Quick Collaboration on the Web, Ward Cunningham and co-author Bo Leuf described the essence of the Wiki concept:[8]

  • “A wiki invites all users—not just experts—to edit any page or to create new pages within the wiki Web site, using only a standard “plain-vanilla” Web browser without any extra add-ons.”
  • “Wiki promotes meaningful topic associations between different pages by making page link creation intuitively easy and showing whether an intended target page exists or not.”
  • “A wiki is not a carefully crafted site created by experts and professional writers and designed for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the typical visitor/user in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the website landscape.”

A wiki enables communities of editors and contributors to write documents collaboratively. All that people require to contribute is a computer, Internet access, a web browser, and a basic understanding of a simple markup language (e.g. MediaWiki markup language). A single page in a wiki website is referred to as a “wiki page”, while the entire collection of pages, which are usually well-interconnected by hyperlinks, is “the wiki”. A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information. A wiki allows non-linear, evolving, complex, and networked text, while also allowing for editor argument, debate, and interaction regarding the content and formatting.[9] A defining characteristic of wiki technology is the ease with which pages can be created and updated. Generally, there is no review by a moderator or gatekeeper before modifications are accepted and thus lead to changes on the website. Many wikis are open to alteration by the general public without requiring registration of user accounts. Many edits can be made in real-time and appear almost instantly online, but this feature facilitates abuse of the system. Private wiki servers require user authentication to edit pages, and sometimes even to read them. Maged N. Kamel Boulos, Cito Maramba, and Steve Wheeler write that the open wikis produce a process of Social Darwinism. “… because of the openness and rapidity that wiki pages can be edited, the pages undergo an evolutionary selection process, not unlike that which nature subjects to living organisms. ‘Unfit’ sentences and sections are ruthlessly culled, edited and replaced if they are not considered ‘fit’, which hopefully results in the evolution of a higher quality and more relevant page.”[10]


Source editing

Some wikis have an Edit button or link directly on the page being viewed if the user has permission to edit the page. This can lead to a text-based editing page where participants can structure and format wiki pages with a simplified markup language, sometimes known as wikitext, wiki markup or wikicode (it can also lead to a WYSIWYG editing page; see the paragraph after the table below). For example, starting lines of text with asterisks could create a bulleted list. The style and syntax of wikitexts can vary greatly among wiki implementations,[example needed] some of which also allow HTML tags.