Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, June 09, 2006

Wikipedia gets a new interface. (Sort of.)

Googlepedia is a firefox extention that displays wikipedia articles on google search result pages.

I know -- been there, done that. But googlepedia is both a useful tool and a herald of exciting stuff to come. It's a new animal -- a true mashup -- for two reasons:

1. It gracefully resolves the differences between wikipedia and google queries (for example, "pictures of trees" returns google results, but not wikipedia results) by using the "feeling lucky" function (and some code that I haven't looked into).

2. It doesn't just display a wikipedia article on the google search results page -- it changes the links in that sidebar article so that instead of pointing to "wikipedia proper" (that is, the frame for Wikipedia content that is, those links now create new google searches (which, of course, display new wikipedia articles).

A point so important I'll say it again:, the page with arial text and a white background, is just a frame, a container, an interface. What's important are the words that make up the encyclopedia, and because the project is open source*, those words are Libre in the old cool cyberhacker "information wants to be free!" sense: they can be filtered, tweaked, nudged through various contexts, used in uncountable ways.

Googlepedia was concieved as an addon to google, but -- the way it really works -- it's also a completely new interface to wikipedia, adding (as the 2.0 cats say) rich new functionality.


Some stuff I want to see in the next couple years:

1. A similarly well-implemented mashup of Wikipedia and Everything2, with some version of softlinks built in (add new softlinks the the bottom of the wikipedia article?). It would be great to, alongside a detailed WPedia subway summary, see some off-the-cuff Subway wit, or to find Eating something other than the Sun's energy for the first time affixed below the Nuclear power article. (Might revive E2, too.)

2. An independently-run flash WPedia interface (with the works -- color-coding to indicate stable and unstable phrases; animations; etc.). But that's for another post.

* More specifically, because the purpose of the wikimedia foundation isn't to increase pageviews/ad revenue at

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