A wiki is simply a website that allows the users to create and edit any number of interlinked web pages through a simplified markup language. They are often powered with wiki software and used to collaborative wiki websites, power community websites, for note taking, and in knowledge management systems.

Some wikis serve specific purpose while others are more of an open content format. Wiki, meaning fast in Hawaiian, was first created by Ward Cunningham who developed WikiWikiWeb.

Wikis quickly were adopted in enterprise as collaborative software. Some companies use wikis as their only collaborative software and some schools employ them for enhanced group learning. Each page within a wiki website is referred to as a wiki. A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information. One of the defining characteristics of wiki technology is the ease with which pages are created and updated. The pages can be updated by the general public and many times without moderation or registering. This does lead to some abuse of the system. However, since the pages are edited by users anything that does not fit are quickly edited and replaced. Therefore any “˜vandalism’ is usually quickly corrected.

Often the content is edited through “˜wikitext’ although there are a lot of other ways to edit the content. Although many pages are designed with HTML the text can be complicated and therefore, many designers prefer to use a plain-text editing on their wikis. Most wikis keep records of each change to the page which allows the authors to revert to an older version should it become necessary.

Usually within the text of the page there are a large number of hypertext links to other pages. This creates a less linear form of navigation. Most wikis also have a backlink feature which shows all pages that are linked to a given page. Many times the links go to pages that do not yet exist in order to get the community to share what they know on a given subject. There is usually a “Recent Changes” page which has a specific list of recent edits. Many times an author employs a watchlist in order to catch any errors on the page and for quality control. Others employ the use of editors with credentials that can flag revisions that don’t meet the authors’ requirements.

Some wikis also offer a title search and some even a full-text search depending on if the wiki engine uses a database. On large wikis it becomes necessary to have an indexed database unless the author decides to use Google search functions. Along with problematic vandalism, there is also a Malware issue. Often hyperlinks within the article can link a user to a site that contains a virus or malware. The wiki software should also attempt to block and scripting that attackers may insert directly into the page.

Many companies use private wikis for internal documentation. They are also commonly used in the academic community for sharing information. They have even showed up some in the legal profession and within government. There are four basic users on a wiki: the author, wiki administrator, web administrator, and the reader. Wikipedia has the largest user base among wikis. It also is one of the top 10 web sites in terms of traffic.

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