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Decade-old Wikipedia mulls place in social Web era

WASHINGTON--It is another defining moment for Wikipedia.

The public knowledge website is more than a decade old and remains among the top 10 Internet sites in the world, but some say it is becoming old and dowdy. Others want to keep it that way.

At the “Wikimania” event held in Washington held over the past week, several hundred members of the “wiki” community gathered for talks about the site and a two-day “hackathon,” aimed at improving Wikipedia.

Some in attendance said Wikipedia, the free, open-source online encyclopedia which is largely unchanged from when it began in 2001, needs upgrading in an era where people are turning to social media like Facebook and Twitter.

“It looks like it's 10 years old,” said Sebastian Wallroth, a software engineer from Germany.

Wallroth said it is difficult for people to collaborate and there are hurdles in uploading pictures and video, unlike more user-friendly sites like Facebook.

Semere Tazaz Sium, recent graduate of Virginia Tech in software engineering, agreed that Wikipedia “needs improvement from a user point of view.”

“It's a very powerful tool but the user interface is a bit old,” said the native of Eritrea who volunteers for Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia founder who is still the public face of the project, said questions about the site's future direction will be worked out in the same manner the website operates — collaboratively.

“I'm not the boss of Wikipedia, you are all the bosses,” he told the opening session of Wikimania at George Washington University on Thursday.

Wales said that even forces are pushing Wikipedia in different directions, decisions won't be made in an “authoritarian” manner.

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