Wikipedia Alternatives: What to Do When Wikipedia Goes Down
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has announced that the crowd-sourced encyclopedia will be going dark on Wednesday in protest of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation.
Wales has advised students to "do their homework now" to avoid the downtime, but that's not your only option. If you really must do research tomorrow, here are five Wikipedia alternatives to keep you covered.
Remember regular encyclopedias? Britannica, formerly the most referenced encyclopedia on earth, offers up expert summaries of a wide range of topics online. Though it's been overshadowed by Wikipedia's crowd-sourced approach in recent years, Encyclopedia Britannica is still one of the most respected reference works in the world.
Scholarpedia uses the same software as Wikipedia, MediaWiki, but keeps the philosophy of a more traditional encyclopedia. Scholarpedia is written only by experts and as a result has less breadth but more depth than Wikipedia. Articles on Scholarpedia are better sourced and more stable than the average article on Wikipedia.
Infoplease started as a quiz show back in the 1930's before evolving into a yearly almanac. Now it's a huge online encyclopedia managed by educational publisher Pearson Education. Infoplease's main advanatage over Wikipedia is that it has a much larger selection of multimedia entries and tools.
Citizendium aims for a comfortable middle ground between the "anything goes" world of Wikipedia editing and the more formal inclusion process of traditional encyclopedias. Citizendium does allow for contributions from the public at large, but contributors must use their real names and conform to the site's rules and regulations or they will be banned from editing in the future.
If you've ever Googled for the definition of a word, you've probably run across Free Dictionary. In addition to dictionary functionality, the Website also offers an encyclopedia section with much longer explanations of over 100,000 people, places, and things.
If you can't accept a substitute for the real Wikipedia--and you have some prep time--you might consider downloading Wikipedia's offline archives. Wikipedia offers a 1.7GB archive of the entire Website that you can download and consult when the site is down.