Encyclopedic Knowledge, Then vs. Now

THIS is the end of the line for Encarta, the encyclopedia that Microsoft introduced in 1993 and still describes boastfully on its Web site as “the No. 1 best-selling encyclopedia software brand for the past eight years.” Microsoft recently announced that sales would soon cease and that the Encarta Web site, supported by advertising, would be shut down later this year.

It’s hard to look at the end of the Encarta experiment without the free and much larger Wikipedia springing immediately to mind. But Encarta arguably would have failed even without that competition. The Google-indexed Web forms a virtual encyclopedia that Encarta never had a chance of competing against.

Full article in the New York Times


Statement in article: "The Google-indexed Web forms a virtual encyclopedia that Encarta never had a chance of competing against."

Without Wikipedia or something similar I don't think the above statement is necessarily true. I don't think the Google indexed web linking out to myriad Geocities accounts and corporate press releases would have killed Encarta. Even the advent of blogs would not have been enough in my opinion. Although Wikipedia has some isssues with authoritativeness it has more authority than Joe's blog.

I'd say it's more virtual than anything else, but they're right, Encarta never stood a chance. Google has everything, Encarta has only some stuff, for the most part people don't want to take an extra step to find the things in Encarta when they can find something that's good enough in Google.

Encarta (as software, not online) debuted when many people still had dial-up with 33 or 56k modems. Encarta was loaded with audio, video and images that did not exist on the Internet. Encarta was great, but now most people only need their phones to access what they need.

Some say that all software loaded on a local machine will soon be obsolete, so it's not a problem with Encarta, but with technology. I wonder if Wikipedia will be here 10 years from now, with it's long-winded entries, when Twitterpedia tells me everything I need to know in 140 characters or less. You should read the Twitterpedia version of the Peloponnesian War. Soon, that's all we'll be able to comprehend, 140 characters or less.

(okay, there is no Twitterpedia,... not a real one, anyway.)

"I'm not really here."

Encarta had a pretty good run for a fairly offbeat product: Sixteen years. It was probably the first encyclopedia to be primarily a CD-ROM (later DVD-ROM) product, and it served well during the (relatively brief) heyday of "title CD-ROMs."

That it's not workable now doesn't mean it "never stood a chance"--it means that its time has come and gone.

(Hey, I think it's likely that none of the software I wrote over five decades is still in use--but that doesn't mean it never stood a chance or that I wasted my career. It means that times change. )


We're also discussing this article over on wikien-l. Basically, every wikipedia article *should* be such that the first sentence summarises the article, the first paragraph summarises the article, the intro section summarises the article. That's in a mythical ideal world, but it's a compass to follow.

But especially for those of us who actually know how to search for things online.
Who know which pages to trust and why, and those of us who know how to check our sources and facts.

Encarta and Wikipedia just made it even easier for the 'other people' to copy and paste 'facts' into their work. Really a lot of information has always been out there, it just wasn't so easy to find for some people.
I remember seeing Encarta when the web really started kicking off when I was at university in 1994. There were so many mistakes on Encarta and other encyclopedias, mainly because they had been made the year before and the world changed. Not a problem for most historical data or basic science, but not so useful for some subject areas.