Wikipedia turns 20 on January 15th, 2021. Over the past 20 years it’s become a respected, and sometimes contentious, source of information.
As anyone can edit an article, we wanted to see which pages have attracted the most revisions to discover what topics the internet really thinks are important.
These range from the predictable, to the outright strange.
You can find the full results of our research on our interactive breakdown here.
Some themes we noticed from our research into 20 years of Wikipedia edits include:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, polarising presidents feature prominently. Two former Presidents of the United States occupy the top 10 of the all-time most-edited list. George W. Bush (2nd), Donald Trump (5th). With one of the most acrimonious elections in living memory taking place in November, Trump’s numbers are likely to rise even further. But not as the U.S. president it seems.
Death features a lot on Wikipedia. Each year has a “Deaths in 20XX” page, with certain months having enough notable or controversial deaths to warrant a heavily edited page. “Deaths in December 2016” must have been particularly busy for the Grim Reaper and Wikipedians alike. The page appears 58th in the all-time list, with nearly 20,000 edits at the time of writing.
Sadly, “Deaths in 2020” is ranked in 9th place of all-time edits. The COVID-19 pandemic has left no corner of the Earth unaffected, hitting rich and poor communities alike and causing the untimely death of so many.
Of the pages in the top 20 all-time revisions list, sport is the category that appears the most often. This includes the top spot, taken by “List of WWE personnel” with over 53,000 edits.
Clearly the debate about whether certain wrestlers are still active is bigger than we all realised. One editor’s note after reversing one revision: “can’t really call someone inactive when he still shows up on TV every week and is beating people with kendo sticks”.
Wikipedia is an unconventional encyclopaedia. Anyone can write about or edit any topic. As such, there exist many articles about strange and obscure subjects. Some of these are clearly of interest to a lot of people, as they rack up a large number of revisions.
These include: a geospatial summary of the summits of the Juneau Icefield, a list of films considered “the worst”, and a list of Thomas the Tank Engine trains. And many, many others.
The themes above include both high-profile pages and more obscure topics. It’s clear that being the definitive source of information on the internet requires a lot of upkeep.
Despite this, the number of editors has fallen over the last 15 years. In 2011, Wikipedia set itself a target to reach 200,000 active editors by 2015. At the time of writing, there are around 130,000.
With the editor demographic being overwhelmingly male (90% at the last survey), it’s important to keep in mind this may be why some pages and themes are edited more than others. For example, pages about wrestling and porn stars are comprehensive, but ones about female writers or places outside Europe and North America are less so.
Nevertheless, Wikipedia is here to stay. Its goal of compiling everything there is to know about everything may be a never-ending one, but it’s clear that no matter the subject, there’s always something more to add. Even if it’s the dreaded .