Company Wikis aren’t Wikipedia

Wikipedia is by far the best-known example of a wiki. This web lexicon is what most people immediately think of when they hear the word wiki. It’s not surprising, since the online encyclopedia is used by millions of people every day. However, Wikipedia is something completely different from a wiki that is used in a corporate intranet.

The pool of potential Wikipedia users is virtually every internet user, whether as authors or, more commonly, as users. Wikipedia is public—every user can participate in Wikipedia anonymously, and many topic contributions are made from many different perspectives.

By contrast, a corporate wiki is targeted at an existing established localized community. For this community, the wiki is part of their daily work and is an important platform of collaboration, whether it involves all company employees, members of a single department or just participants on a specific project.

Within a company, a wiki fills not just one but many functions. The system is used for basic processes such as project communication and organization, and also for the preparation and revision of meetings, including cooperative development of agendas and protocols, project management, coordination of tasks and joint activities, internal blogging, etc.

Many companies find that an encyclopedia is exactly what they need. This if often the case, but not necessarily the rule. Should someone in your organization question the necessity for a corporate wiki and wonder what use an intranet reference book could be, there are good supporting arguments. A lexicon has a very specific application in the form of a wiki, which is very different from Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has a single purpose as an encyclopedia. A corporate wiki, however, is not public, and has a much higher participation rate than a public system. A functioning enterprise wiki is not only a lexicon, but a fluid work application, which can contribute significantly to the effectiveness and efficiency of communication and collaboration, with the majority of employees participating actively and regularly.

This article was first published on February 7, 2008 as VodCast by the title „Your Wiki Isn't Necessarily Wikipedia“ by Stewart Mader. Stewart Mader is one of the leading and influential wiki experts of our time. You can reach his website at

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