Monday, March 30, 2009

Encarta is So 1999

Microsoft Encarta Dies After Long Battle With Wikipedia: "Microsoft delivered the coup de grace Monday to its dying Encarta encyclopedia, acknowledging what everyone else realized long ago: it just couldn’t compete with Wikipedia, a free, collaborative project that has become the leading encyclopedia on the Web."

Heck, I thought Encarta had folded shop years ago. I can hardly remember my last computer to come with Encarta--perhaps it was 7 or 8 years back? Even then it was never very useful--dull text and some illustrations with occasional animations. And you had to insert the Encarta CD into your machine to use the encyclopedia--it was always easier to open a browser and search online. A friend of mine wrote a lot of the first edition of Encarta and I even helped him a bit with the research when I was his grad student. I wonder how many hours of work are being abandoned with Encarta?

5 comments:

J. L. Bell said...

Before departing this world, Encarta forced Encyclopedia Britannica into completely changing its business model. That story appears in The Microsoft Way, by Randy Stross.

But Encarta never established its brand, as Britannica had, so one survives in a new, thinner, online form while the other will apparently fade away.

Larry Cebula said...

And how long will Brittanica survive?

I remember as a kid what a status item it was to have a set of encyclopedias in the home. Our rich neighbors down the street had the Encyclopedia Brittannica prominently displayed. My own family could never afford it, so my mom bought the Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia one volume at a time as part of a grocery store promotion. Except that some weeks we could not afford it and by the time we could that volume would be sold it, so our set was missing volumes 4, 9, 14 and 17.

The same store later had a dishware promotion and our set of dishes turned out to be similarly incomplete.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia, with a 97% share of the online encyclopedia market, has forced Microsoft to shut down Encarta. How long will it be before Wikipedia claims the prize scalp of Encyclopaedia Britannica?

Encyclopaedia Britannica did not think that an open source product like Wikipedia would significantly challenge the credibility of its brand. They were dead wrong and Encyclopaedia Britannica's staff seriously misread the global market. They are now very concerned about the widespread use of a free Wikipedia vs their paid subscription model. From a corporate and financial perspective, Encyclopaedia Britannica is in significant trouble.

It will be interesting to see if Encyclopaedia Britannica survives, but recent indications do not look good. It is the combination of a) the success of Wikipedia and b) improved search engines that has put financial pressure on Encyclopedia Britannica over recent years. Many libraries, schools & individuals are questioning the need to pay for sets of expensive books, or to subscribe to Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, when the content is free on the internet, and much more comprehensive.

alarob said...

Wikipedia may represent the future of tertiary sources in general. We were always misguided to give them as much credence as we did, even as schoolkids. Perhaps the only way they can really be useful is to be mutable, constantly subject to challenge, perpetually unfinished, and never definitive. Isn't Wikipedia a better introduction to the world of scholarship than a row of bound, finished volumes pretending to summarize all the world's knowledge?

Larry Cebula said...

That is an interesting point, Alarob, and not one I have heard before in the infinite Wikipedia debate. One of the things we work on in the survey classes is getting to realize that history is not an eternal set of facts but rather a eternally changing set of interpretations. Then we hand them "authoritative" dead tree publications that say "this is the way it was." Wikipedia dramatically illustrates the actual process of history at work.