Apr 6, 2009

Encyclopedias and the Pace of Change

Last week, Microsoft announced that they are shutting down Encarta, the digital encyclopedia that was originally released on CD-ROM. A brief history:

  • 1778-1993 (215 years): Encyclop√¶dia Britannica rules the day
  • 1993-2009 (16 years) Microsoft's Encata quickly takes over
  • 2009-?: Volunteer-edited Wikipedia ascends to the throne

The question is, how long will Wikipedia reign? If the average lifespan of encyclopedia technology continues to shrink at the speed implied above, a challenger may already exist. Ironically, Microsoft helped force Britannica's capitulation by giving away free copies (excuse me, "bundling") of Encarta when you bought a new computer with the Windows operating system. Wikipedia's product managed to undercut them on price while offering greater value and a lower cost of production.

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