Theresa O’Connor

On usage of the term “wiki”

On several occasions I’ve heard people use the word “wiki” as if it were a name for Wikipedia, e.g.: “I was reading wiki’s article about France the other day…,” or “oh, that’s interesting; I’ll have to look that up on wiki.” This is really strange — the latter example even sounds ungrammatical to me.

Wiki is a type or category of website — wikis are websites that anybody can edit (FSVO anybody) and which have a radically simplified markup syntax with easy internal linking (WikiWords or [[Links like this]]). Ward’s Wiki (the WikiWikiWeb) was the first wiki, but there are many others (the English-language Wikipedia and the EmacsWiki, to name two). “Wiki” doesn’t refer to some particular website.

Erin thinks calling Wikipedia ‘wiki’ is like calling Microsoft ‘MS’ in that it‘s somewhat ambiguous — MS could mean master of science, multiple sclerosis, Mississippi, or any number of other things. But using “wiki” in this manner is much more ambiguous than that — imagine if Microsoft abbreviated to some short word which meant “software company!”

Please, think of the kittens.