Wikipedia vs Brockhaus and Encarta

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An article comparing WP to Brockhaus and Encarta appeared in issue 21/04 of c't, a major German computer engineering magazine. It is titled Lexika: Wikipedia gegen Brockhaus und Encarta, starting on p. 132.

The three were tested on breadth, depth, and comprehensibility of content, ease of searching, and quality of multimedia content.

The content test was the most elaborate: first they divided content into three broad fields, Science, Society, and Culture. They further subdivided these into 22 total subject areas, and within each subject selected an easy, a moderate and a difficult topic. They then searched for the best matching article (and supplementary content) in the encyclopedia.

Finally, they brought in experts in each broad field who rated the articles from 1 to 5, based on technical correctness and completeness of the texts, and on their comprehensibility. Once this was finished, the results were totalled at each level of conceptual difficulty, within each broad field, and across all 66 topics.

The net result: Wikipedia ran away with the top prize, a comfortable distance ahead of its stately predecessors. "Brockhaus Premium surpassed the competition from Redmond," the review reported, "but must however concede defeat to Wikipedia".

The full breakdown of the experts' ratings was published along with the article.

The table below lists the main results:

  • the number of topics out of 66 tests that an articles exists for
  • the average size of those articles (characters)
  • the average rating by experts from the respective fields (1 is bad, 5 is best)
Overview of results
Encyclopaedia articles size rating
Encarta Pro 54 4430 3.6
Brockhaus 61 3326 3.6
Wikipedia 63 4040 3.8

A detailed list of the 66 topics and the rating for each Wikipedia article can be found here.

The result is that Wikipedia wins. It's broader and the quality is slightly higher. As expected, since the study was made the articles on all but one of the missing topics were added to Wikipedia (as of January 2005).

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