Google has been rumored to hook up with Wikipedia for a while now. Could they finally be taking the final steps towards the goal of a full partnership? Last week, Googling Google reported that Google registered googlereference.net/org/info and googlereferencepages.com/net/org/info indicating Google's plans to possibly start an encyclopedia. So, they ask "what better reference is there than Wikipedia?"
For those that don't know, Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that allows anyone with access to an Internet connection to "edit, correct, or improve information" through out the web site. They do, however, make exceptions for copyrighted material. So with this in mind, how do we gage the reliability of Wikipedia? Should it be seen as a dependable source of factual information?
The idea of Wikipedia is great. I have to admit that I have been caught up in the glory of Wikipedia providing all of this free information and everyone coming together to provide as much data as possible. However, as the popularity and the awareness of Wikipedia's existence have come to the public's attention, so has the abuse towards its intentions. Recently, a handful of U.S. Senators and Congressmen's staff members have been caught tweaking the biographies of their respected bosses. The staff members removed any adverse information listed that could be potentially harmful to the reputations of the Senators and Congressmen they work for. Is this fair to those using Wikipedia as their primary source of information?
Now you may be saying 'Who only uses one source to do research on something they don't know about?' Well, I would say mainly students, who are looking to complete assignments and are not worried about double checking the value of the information they are reading. So we run the risk of having students learning false information due to somebody else's mistake.
I look at this as an opportunity for Google to step in as a force of reliable information on the web. Instead of trying to hook up with Wikipedia, they should try to improve and promote Google Scholar to schools across the globe. They should combine their video search, university search, and book search to provide one service that is tailored to students and students only. It could provide the more reliable listings of Google scholar along with educational videos and even excerpts from history books. This type of service could allow schools who lack the funding to purchase new text books with updated information to gain access to data their students need.
You may be thinking, is this really Google's job? Maybe not right now, but it could be.