Microsoft announced a few months ago that it will discontinue its Encarta software, including its online resources (MSN-based Web site). The official reason for this operation seems to be that users do not use the traditional way (i.e. a well trusted, official encyclopedia, like Encarta was) to search for information, they instead rely on search engines and resources like the publicly editable Wikipedia online encyclopedia (although Microsoft doesn’t mention it directly I personally feel that’s the one they’re implying).
I know that Wikipedia articles and their content can be discussed/debated and therefore articles are usually accurate, but there are many times when (and I found myself looking at such articles too often):
- Wikipedia articles aren’t complete (of course sometimes Encarta haven’t even had articles on many topics that Wikipedia has, so this may be considered as an advantage; but it’s really frustrating to read only one paragraph or so regarding something, a paragraph that usually adds nothing to what you already know about the searched topic; it would have been better to just not find anything about it);
- Wikipedia articles aren’t accurate (Encarta used experts in many areas to make sure their articles are technically and/or scientifically accurate); many times you could get wrong information about some topics you knew everything about, and until the discussion/debate decided about whether it may be too late for somebody else who would simply trust the source without waiting;
- Wikipedia articles aren’t gramatically correct, or have technical mistakes: many times you can find duplicate paragraphs, incomplete sentences, broken text blocks, or even wrong characters used inside text.
Because of all these, I was hoping that Encarta will NOT die. But unfortunately I cannot do much to help: Microsoft already decided its future and it’s not pink. So let’s move on, and maybe the next good thing is to participate more in Wikipedia (or a different publicly editable encyclopedia), so that articles become as complete, accurate, and correct as possible.
If you were to replace Encarta online with a different (but also free) online encyclopedia, what would be your choice? Would it be Wikipedia or do you have an alternative? Maybe a more trustable one? Thanks in advance for your answer!
Update: It seems Microsoft has decided to keep MSN Encarta Dictionary, tough. (This is based on an e-mail I’ve received on October 7, 2009, from MSN Encarta team.)