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What website would you miss the most if it disappeared?


What website would you miss the most if it disappeared?

The recent news about Facebook being put on hiatus in Papua New Guinea got us thinking about how well we would function if we were no longer able to use some of the websites we’ve come to rely upon.

Facebook, aside from being the most used social media site in its own right, is a gateway to several other important sites and apps. Facebook owns the likes of Instagram, WhatsApp and of course its own Messenger tool. People who have deleted their account also report not realising how often they used the ‘Log in with Facebook’ option to gain access to other sites, such as Spotify.

As useful and ubiquitous as Facebook is though, there are alternatives. I think we could cope without it if we had to, assuming WhatsApp and Instagram remained accessible along with rival sites and apps like Twitter and Snapchat.

The most used site on the internet is Google – one that most of us use multiple times every day – but what if it vanished? Many of us would need to set up a new email account and we would have to rediscover Yahoo!, get used to Bing or try out a different search engine like DuckDuckGo. Again, no disaster, although the loss of useful tools like Google Maps and Google News would be a shame.

What about YouTube, the second most visited site on the web? The content on there is invaluable, but the site itself is fairly unremarkable and there are major problems with the way some people communicate on it. Again, if it went offline, something else could eventually take its place.

So, what is the most valuable site on the internet? Apart from the Engage Web blog, of course, which site would you most mourn the loss of if you could never access it again? My vote goes to Wikipedia.

Unlike with Facebook, Google and YouTube, I really think there is no equivalent to Wikipedia. No other site can offer the depth, ease of use and reliability that the vast online encyclopaedia does, and it does so without any adverts. It loads quickly, it’s mostly extremely well written, it’s available in just about any language, and its guide to how to write entries is thorough and makes for a solid guide as to how to write well in general.

If you’re looking for information on a topic, it’s often a better resource than ones set up specifically for the purpose. For example, if I want to find out the World Cup groups and fixtures, I could trawl through FIFA’s site, or I could just go to the much clearer Wikipedia page on the tournament. If I discover a band and want to find out about their back catalogue, Wikipedia is usually a smoother and quicker way to do this than specific sites like Discogs and AllMusic – at least as a starting point.

I won’t pretend Wikipedia is faultless. The very fact that anyone can edit it means that it is open to abuse (e.g. Gary Oldman was born as a giraffe) and not everything on there is reliable. If it is reliable, though, it should be backed up with a source, so once you’ve familiarised yourself with the Wiki style, you come to learn that if something isn’t referenced, it’s best to double check it rather than accept it as true. If you find it to be nonsense, you can correct it yourself.

So, hats off to Wikipedia for being the one site we really couldn’t do without. Maybe we should make a donation after all?

John Murray

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