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Wikipedia Wars: 10 Biggest Edit Battles

We round up the most heated, most bitterly contested, and most pointless confrontations over facts in Wikipedia’s 10-year history. What makes people leap into these frays will amaze and amuse you.

War of the Words

Almost since Wikipedia was first created in 2001, users have battled over what is the correct information that should appear on their favorite pages (any user can edit almost any Wikipedia page). These disputes--and we mean, to most of us, those over clearly trivial issues--sometimes turn into outright wars of back-and-forth edits.

Over the years, Wikipedia has tried many strategies to stamp out these wars, strategies ranging from locking down highly contested pages to creating super-editors to resolve disputes.

Despite those efforts, the Wikipedia wars and their obsessive combatants remain, ready to fight for their pet causes like modern-day, Internet-addicted Spartan warriors. We've managed to round up ten of the fiercest, most unnecessary battles Wikipedia has ever seen. Let's take a look.

Nikola Tesla: The Origins-of-the-Scientist War

The eccentric Nikola Tesla was one of the most brilliant inventors of the nineteenth century. Perhaps most notably, he invented alternating current and helped perfect the designs of the radio and the telephone. His life was marked by famous feuds with the likes of Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi (the inventor of radio). So what should spark an edit war?

Why, endless debate over how to refer to Tesla's nationality, of course. Serbia, Croatia, Austria, and Austria-Hungary (among others) all have decent claims to being Tesla's nation of origin, and all of them have proponents that regularly edit the page.

Caesar Salad: To Anchovy or Not Anchovy--That Is One Part of This War

"What's there to argue over with Caesar salad?" you might ask. What is there to not argue about? The page has seen edit wars flare up over when the dish was invented, where it was created, and who it was named for. Even the salad's ingredients and spelling aren't safe. Intrepid editors have battled over Caesar/Cesar/Cesare salad for over two years now. Who knows if they'll ever stop?

Jimmy Wales: The Battle of the Wikipedian’s Birthday

Even Wikipedia's founder isn't immune to edit wars. After Jimmy Wales decided he didn't want to commit his birth date to the annals of Wikipedia and removed his name from the edit that pinned his age down forever, a huge edit war erupted. That battle eventually resulted in four secondary sources cited to confirm Wales's birthday.

The Star Wars Death Star: The War Over Star Wars

The largest weapon ever created (albeit just in the movies) also spawned one of the most edited Wikipedia pages ever. What kind of hyperdrive did the Death Star have? How big exactly was the ship? Apparently "big enough to be mistaken for a moon" wasn't a good enough answer for the Wikipedia community.

Nintendo Wii: The Rhyming Homonym Battle

Gamers are probably not surprised to learn that this Nintendo console is the source of so much debate, but they might be shocked at the Wii minutiae that Wikipedians will battle over. In less than two weeks, after the console's name was announced in 2006, this page had more than 1500 separate edits over several vital issues.

For instance, should the console be called Wii or Nintendo Wii? And does Wii rhyme with "we" or "wee?" This last deathly question is vital to some, even if those two words are pronounced exactly the same.

Street Fighter Game Characters: The War of the Fictional Weight Classes

Memo to Capcom: If you're going to list the height and weight of your fictional fighting game characters, please keep that statistical information consistent from game to game. If you don't, then Wikipedia users will freak out and start an edit war about the exact heights and weights of Ken and Ryu.

Yao Ming: The 'Can’t We Just Say He’s Really Tall?' Battle

The famous Chinese Basketball player Yao Ming is 7 feet, 6 inches tall. Or is he? In addition to a long-standing edit war over Yao Ming's height, the article has also seen bitter edit wars about the height of his mother and father and how tall, exactly, doctors predicted he would grow to be when he was a child.

(The) Eagles: The War of the Definite Article

The band is just "Eagles" according to album covers, but is it still all right to refer to the '70s rock icons more casually as "The Eagles"? A sizable contingent of Wikipedia users would say: No. No, it is not. Periodically, "Eagles only" hard-liners will pounce on this Wikipedia page and remove every "the" that they can find--no matter how grammatically nonsensical the results.

Pluto: The War of the (Former) World

When Pluto lost its status as a planet, the demotion, of course, launched a huge edit war. But even after Pluto's status as a nonplanet at the edge of our solar system was settled, the fights continued. Now the various factions dedicated to this subject debate, for instance, whether Pluto's article should be renamed for its formal designation, "134340 Pluto." Will the indignities heaped on this poor astronomical body never end?

Polar Cubs: The Un-Bearably Cute Battle

Look at those tiny polar bear cubs. Aren't they cute? Maybe they are, and maybe they're not. Can you cite any sources for their cuteness? Can you prove that these cubs are objectively cute? This unsuspecting Wikipedia article on a baby zoo animal became ground zero for a fight over when, and how, you're allowed to refer to an arguably adorable animal.