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The recent Wikipedia ‘blackout’ alerted something in my mind the other day. I found about the ‘blackout’ the hard way, by trying to access Wikipedia only to realise that it wasn’t accessible. The reason I was trying to access Wikipedia was due to me wanting to find out some information that I thought would benefit me in the exam I was having that afternoon, and it was starting to bug me that I couldn’t find out my information the way I normally would, through the user-generated encyclopaedia. After a moment of mild confusion and frustration as I browsed the internet only to greeted by websites fuelled with pop ups and useless information, I realised it wasn’t just me that was being affected by the inconvenience of the website.

As a regular user of ‘Twitter’ and ‘FaceBook’, I began to see Wikipedia based ‘tweets’ and status’ across both newsfeeds from a variety of different people. One girl who is a full time college student posted her FaceBook status as “WHY Wikipedia Why. Dreading this exam tomorrow now…” and a male full time student like myself, who was also attending the same exam as me, posted “Is Wikipedia seriously having a voluntary ‘black-out’ on the day of my exam? Are they for real?” When speaking to my Granddad on the phone later that night, even he had been affected by the Wikipedia ‘blackout’, as he had been looking for some information to help my 14 year old brother with his history homework.

The way I had witnessed that it wasn’t just me that had relied upon Wikipedia to be my source of information that day made me realise how culturally important the website is to a variety of different people. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that we all depend on Wikipedia so much when it has a reputation for being, at times, ‘unreliable’? With a little bit of research I found out that 400 million people use Wikipedia. Where did I find that out from? Where do you think…?

George Fryer.