Wikipedia in recent years has become the go-to address for Internet users when it comes to looking up information on the Internet. For many, it has replaced the paper encyclopedia almost completely, which is further fueled by encyclopedias shutting down the production of paper editions like Encyclopedia Britannica did.
It is rare to see Wikipedia go down, but it can happen. But that is not the only reason why you may want to include other encyclopedias in your online research. Maybe Wikipedia does not have an article yet on the topic that you are interested in, or the article that is available on the site is not providing you with the answers you are looking for.
Sometimes you may also need a specialized encyclopedia instead, for instance when it comes to medical research. While you usually find the topic covered on Wikipedia, you will also notice that it is usually not as thorough as it is covered on specialized sites. Please note that we have only included free alternatives in this list, so no Britannica Online for instance.
Citizendium is a much smaller site than Wikipedia is. The encyclopedia offers more than 16,000 articles at the time of writing, of which 159 have been approved by experts. Everyone can join the site as an author, but only some will be recognized as experts in a particular field. Rules are a lot stricter when it comes to writing articles, with authors having to use real names and abide by the site's rules.
Debatepedia is a site catering to pro and contra arguments. It calls itself the Wikipedia of debates and offers an interesting approach to information that you may want to look up online.It is a great source for topics that you can debate about, and not so much for other topics. [Update: no longer available]
Encyclopedia lets you search over 100 encyclopedias and dictionaries. It is a meta search engine that is providing you with links and contents from a variety of sources.
Google Scholar, a search engine for scholarly literature. While not an encyclopedia itself, it can find articles, theses, books, abstracts or court opinions about the research topic.
Infoplease is maintained by Pearson Education, one of the world's largest educational book distributors. Like The Free Dictionary, Infoplease republishes articles from source such as the Columbia Encyclopedia on its site. The benefit here is that the articles are usually correct, but less often updated than articles on free to edit encyclopedias.
Scholarpedia uses the same software that Wikipedia uses to power its encyclopedia. The editorial process is much stricter though, as article updates need to be approved by experts before they are visible on the live site. While this has an impact on the availability of articles and updates, it also ensures that information are correct, and that false information or even vandalism is not a big issue.
The free Dictionary contains over 100,000 terms drawing from The Columbia Encyclopedia, the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, the Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, and the Collins Discovery Encyclopedia. It does not offer user generated contents, nor the option to alter or modify existing items.
Wikia is a wiki-hosting service that anyone can use to create Wikipedia-like sites for specific topics they are interested in. The main focus lies on popular culture, which includes video games, TV, movies, sport, fashion and current events.
This is just a small selection of available Wikipedia alternatives. If you know of another service that should be in this list, feel free to add it to the comments below.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.