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Some people visit Wikipedia out of idle curiosity. To look up information on something that has being niggling them for a while. Some others head there to do serious research. Though I don’t know how reliable the information on an open source site can be for academic research. I fall into the first group. It is where I end up if I want quick information about something. I hardly ever read beyond the first paragraph.


So did I find the research carried out by the knight foundation ranking Wikipedia the outright number one site surprising? Yes, for me at least. Apparently, around the world, millions of people visit the website every minute to do the stuff I do and much more too. I knew the website is one of the most popular site on the Web, but not the outright number one. I thought that title belonged to news sites like the BBC, CNN, and social networking sites like Facebook (But in broader sense, Facebook is the number site when it comes to how long people spend on a site). The ranking was based on the most visited site when people are searching for information about something. I guess that should clear the air a bit.

The other variable in the research is the mode of accessing these sites. The research was restricted to mobile smartphones. The thinking being that, increasingly, people all over the world go online with their mobile devices than with computers. I guess the research was aimed at businesses ( both big and small). One conclusion from the research was advising companies how to optimize their online presence by making good mobile apps.

wikipediaThe raw data from the research show that on the average, people spent 13 minutes on Wikipedia’s mobile page. Contrast this with CNN in second place where the average time spent is just a little short of 10 minutes per month. BuzzFeed (that is one site I hardly ever visit) came in third at about 9 minutes 30 seconds. However, and this is an important however, BuzzFeed is way ahead of Wikipedia and CNN in the time users spent on using the various apps on BuzzFeed. More than 2 hours is spent on average on the BuzzFeed app, while just 46 and 31 minutes are spent on CNN and Wikipedia apps per month respectively. This goes back to what I said earlier about the importance of mobile apps.

Looking at Wikipedia’s influence from another perspective, the data from the research showed that, more than one third of the sample population access Wikipedia through their mobile devices. That is a whooping 52 million people each month as against CNN which tops out at around 21 million unique visitors per month and BuzzFeed in third place with about 14 million visitors per month (Again, these figures should not be confused with app-use on mobile devices where BuzzFeed is the standout leader)

So why is Wikipedia performing so brilliantly? In the first place, the site has a positive history behind it. Over the years, it has being a force among desktop users. And as browsing habits hardly change, people just transferred their browsing culture to mobile devices. Again most of the top news and information sites have played a prominent role. These sites often have Wikipedia links in them and Wikipedia also returns the favor for the bigger websites. For instance, according to the research,

“Wikipedia was one of the top 10 websites visited prior to exploring sites as varied as BuzzFeed, Daily MailOnline,,, and Tribune Newspapers.”

wikipediaBut most importantly, Wikipedia gets a huge amount of traffic from Google search. How many times have you done a Google search only to get a Wikipedia entry at the top of the search results? Yeah, right. Over 90% of the time. Why it always end up at the top of search results is not too clear. But it is safe bet to assume that the number of visitors to a site determines it’s ranking on Google search. However, is it the Google search results that boosts a site’s average visits per month or is it the number of visitor’s to a site that determines it’s ranking on Google search? That is a neat chicken and egg situation that the so-called SEO experts would debate to hell and back.

Wikipedia has never released stats showing the average monthly visits to its website. But one thing the folks working there are not ashamed to say is that it is very unlikely that anybody can completely read everything on the site. According to Wikipedia Foundation, paying tribute to 15 years of existence,

It would take more than 21 years for someone to read all of English Wikipedia. If you took no breaks and never slept.”


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