Journal of Information Technology Theory and Application (JITTA)


Wikipedia is defined by its founders as the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” This property, we argue, makes Wikipedia a public good and hence subject to under-provision. A puzzling feature of Wikipedia however is its enormous size, at roughly seven times that of its commercial counterparts. What is driving this growth? And how can we assess the reliability of this giant encyclopedia arising solely from free-editing? We model contribution to Wikipedia and its reliability. We demonstrate that Wikipedia is indeed subject to free-riding, and offer a novel explanation for the mitigation of under-provision under such circumstances. We also find that the public-good feature of Wikipedia and free-riding introduce a lower-bound in the quality of Wikipedia. This finding is consistent with a previous empirical study that established Wikipedia‟s surprisingly high level of quality. We identify Wikipedia as part of a general Internet phenomenon that we call the Collaborative Net, and that includes features such as citizen journalism and online reviews.