Britannica's president Jorge Cauz announced that Britannica is going to allow edits submitted online according to this news report by Stephen Hutcheon. He even dubbed this "Britannica 2.0" in the title.
Or is it?
I take it that this "2.0" is in line with the spirit of "Web 2.0," and I immediately went to Britannica Online to check it out, only to find disappointments.
Web 2.0 is not only about user-generated content, it also inherits the open access from the web in general, or "web 1.0" if you want. When I see a link to a wikipedia page on a search result page of any search engine, I know I can read the contents without paying a dime, and there won't be pop-up ads that blocks my way to the article and the knowledge carried by it.
Britannica Online is everything but free and open access.
The first test - on not-so-new termsAs a not-statistically-significant-yet-interesting test of its freshness, I searched the WiFi privacy protocol "WEP" which is almost obsolete now. Guess what? No, Britannica Online doesn't have it.
By the way, Mr. Cauz, please make your web site compatible with Firefox. All I can see on Firefox is a misplaced ad that blocks the error messages. I have to switch to Safari to get the above page.
The second test - on not-recommended-by-experts termsMy second test is "Lorenzo's oil" which is a formula of oil mixtures discovered by Lorenzo Odone's father, who is not a doctor nor a researcher in any pharmaceutical companies. It's effectiveness on delaying the onset of ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy) is controversial and it is not recommended by the medical academy or approved by FDA as a treatment. It would be a signal that Britannica Online's editors and experts are too arrogant if they don't describe the oil and the controversy. To my pleasant surprise, they do have this entry.
However, I still can't read it. The noble Britannica said I was attempting to read a premium topic and I had to activate a free trial to read it.
Oh... here we go again, free trials. When I forget to cancel it before the trial period is over, you'll start charging my credit card. No, thank you very much. I'm not interested. I'll get information on wikipedia.
I know Britannica has a big cost in paying experts to write the articles. But why should I or any internet user care? Unless I can't find quality and free content elsewhere, I don't see a reason to pay.
The contributor's qualificationOkay, this is not exactly a "qualification", but how about this:
"Would-be editors on the Britannica site will have to register using their real names and addresses before they are allowed to modify or write their own articles."Give me a break. If I write anything for Britannica, what matters is not who I am, but the correctness and quality of what I write. Maybe this is a way to get the copyright issues straight, or an anti-DoS measure to prevent over-run of Britannica's reviewers. But it also creates an entry barrier. I'm not going into the decades-old debate of anonymity vs real name on the internet, but the size and quality of wikipedia proves there is a market for anonymity.
Google ranks wikipedia the highest - duhAnother funny thing is about Google's ranking of wikipedia entries vs. Britannica articles, and I quote:
"If I were to be the CEO of Google or the founders of Google I would be very [displeased] that the best search engine in the world continues to provide as a first link, Wikipedia," he said."Is this the best they can do? Is this the best that [their] algorithm can do?"Get over it, Mr. Cauz. If you don't know how PageRank works, hire a decent SEO consultant. You have cut your premier contents away from the web collective by requiring a login. Any reasonable search engine robot can't crawl pass that. So your premier contents are not in any search engine's index. Besides, not many people are willing to link to a page requiring a login from their blog entries or news articles. So your premier contents don't get much incoming links and score poorly in PageRank or any algorithm that takes into account the link structure of the web.
Anything worth visiting?Britannica Online doesn't have enough coverage to keep up with internet age, is picky on the browser, charges reader for "premium" topics, requires real name and address for contributors. What good is a web site with all these characteristics?
Wake up, Mr. Cauz. This is not how internet and search engines work.