Online encyclopedia

An online encyclopedia, also called a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia accessible through the internet.[1] The idea to build a free encyclopedia using the Internet can be traced at least to the 1994 Interpedia proposal; it was planned as an encyclopedia on the Internet to which everyone could contribute materials. The project never left the planning stage and was overtaken by a key branch of old printed encyclopedias.

Digitization of old content


There are a lot of old encyclopedias and dictionaries of national biographies on Wikisource both in English and other languages. The completion of these encyclopedias vary and the quality of the content varies from proofread, to poor quality text with many optical character recognition (OCR) errors.

NameOriginal publicationLanguageCompletionLinkNotes
Allgemeine Deutsche Biographiedes:de:Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie
The Encyclopedia Americana1906ens:The Encyclopedia Americana (1906)
1920ens:The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)
The Cyclopædia of American Biography1918ens:The Cyclopædia of American Biography
New American Cyclopædia1897ens:The American Cyclopædia (1879)
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography1900ens:Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography
Encyclopædia Britannica Ninth Edition1875–1889ens:Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition
Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition1911ens:1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica Twelfth Edition1922ens:1922 Encyclopædia Britannica
Catholic Encyclopedia1913en100%s:Catholic EncyclopediaAlso referred to today as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia; The first volume appeared in March 1907 and it was completed in April 1914
Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century1911ens:Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century
Collier's Encyclopediaens:Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)
Complete Encyclopaedia of Music1880ens:Complete Encyclopaedia of Music
Neue Deutsche Biographiedes:de:Neue Deutsche Biographie
Diccionario Geográfico de la República de Chileess:es:Diccionario Geográfico de la República de Chile
Easton's Bible Dictionaryens:Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897)
Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe sièclefrs:fr:Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle
Grove's A Dictionary of Music and Musicians1879–1889ens:A Dictionary of Music and MusiciansKnown in its 21st century edition as Grove Music Online
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities1890ens:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology1870ens:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography1854ens:Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography
Dictionary of Indian Biography1906ens:Dictionary of Indian Biography
The Indian Biographical Dictionaryens:The Indian Biographical Dictionary
New International Encyclopediaens:The New International Encyclopædia
Jewish Encyclopedia1905ens:Jewish Encyclopedia
Dictionary of National Biography1885–1900ens:Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900
1901ens:Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement
1912ens:Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement
The Nuttall Encyclopædia1907en100%s:The Nuttall Encyclopædia


Many encyclopedias are available at the Internet Archive website. Although the original text is viewable the machine readable text is often poor with many OCR errors.

In January 1995, Project Gutenberg started to publish the ASCII text of the Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition (1911), but disagreement about the method halted the work after the first volume. For trademark reasons this has been published as the Gutenberg Encyclopedia. Project Gutenberg later restarted work on digitising and proofreading this encyclopedia. Project Gutenberg has published volumes in alphabetic order the most recent publication is Volume 17 Slice 8: Matter–Mecklenburg published on 7 April 2013.[2] The latest Britannica was digitized by its publishers, and sold first as a CD-ROM,[3] and later as an online service.[4]

In 2001, ASCII text of all 28 volumes was published on Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition[5] by source; a copyright claim was added to the materials included. The website no longer exists.

Other digitization projects have made progress in other titles. One example is Easton's Bible Dictionary (1897) digitized by the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.[6]

A successful digitization of an encyclopedia was the Bartleby Project's online adaptation of the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition,[7] in early 2000 and is updated periodically.

There are other websites that provide online encyclopedias, some of which are also available on Wikisource, but which may be more complete than those on Wikisource, or may be different editions (see List of online encyclopedias).

Creation of new content

Another related branch of activity is the creation of new, free contents on a volunteer basis. In 1991, the participants of the Usenet newsgroup[8] started a project to produce a real version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a fictional encyclopedia used in the works of Douglas Adams. It became known as Project Galactic Guide. Although it originally aimed to contain only real, factual articles, the policy was changed to allow and encourage semi-real and unreal articles as well. Project Galactic Guide contains over 1700 articles, but no new articles have been added since 2000; this is probably partly due to the founding of h2g2, a more official project along similar lines.

Another early online encyclopedia was called the Global Encyclopedia. In November 1995 a review of it was presented by James Rettig (Assistant Dean of University Libraries for Reference and Information Services) College of William and Mary at the 15th Annual Charleston Conference on library acquisitions and related issues. He said of the Global Encyclopedia:[9]

This is a volunteer effort to compile an encyclopedia and distribute it for free on the World Wide Web. If you have ever yearned to be the author of an encyclopedia article, yearn no longer. Take a minute (or even two or three if you are feeling scholarly) to write an article on a topic of your choosing and [e]mail it off to the unnamed "editors." These editors (to use that title very loosely) have generated a list of approximately 1,300 topics they want to include; to date, perhaps a quarter of them have been treated; to date, perhaps a quarter of them have been treated. ... This so-called encyclopedia gives amateurism a bad name. It is being compiled without standards or guidelines for article structure, content, or reading level. It makes no apparent effort to check the qualifications and authority of the volunteer authors. Its claim that "Submitted articles are fact-checked, corrected for spelling, and then formatted" is at best an exaggeration.[9]

He then gives several examples of article entries such as Iowa City:

A city of approximately 60,000 people, Iowa City lies in the eastern half of Iowa. It is also the home of the University of Iowa ([9]

See also


  1. Osaemezu Emmanuel, Ogwu (8 December 2017). "Everipedia Set to Become the First Blockchain Encyclopedia". BTCManager. Archived from the original on 10 January 2018.
  2. Various (7 April 2013), Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, "Matter" to "Mecklenburg", Project Gutenberg
  3. Now on DVD — "Store software". Britannica Encyclopædia. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  4. "Main page". Britannica Encyclopædia. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  5. "LoveToKnow Classic Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 27 September 2001. Retrieved 18 June 2003.
  6. "Easton's Bible Dictionary by Easton". Archived from the original on 3 August 2003. Retrieved 18 June 2003.
  7. "Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001". Archived from the original on 5 February 2002. Retrieved 5 February 2002.
  8. "". Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  9. "Firehose>". 11 January 2005. Archived from the original on 11 January 2005. Retrieved 15 January 2019.

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