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A wiki is a website that allows the site visitors to add and edit content. Generally, site visitors use their browser to edit text without requiring HTML code. Additionally, some Wikis allow adding and editing of graphics, tables and interactive components.
The term wiki may also simply refer to the software used to create such a Web site.
A blog site, by contrast, does allow visitors to add content, but does not usually allow them to change or edit previous comments from others.
The work “wiki” actually means “quick” or “fast” in Hawaiian. It was first used in 1994 by Ward Cunningham in Portland, Oregon. He developed his “WikiWikiWeb” after being inspired at Honolulu International Airport by an airport employee advising him to take the “Wiki Wiki Shuttle” between terminals; it was an alternative to “quick,” as he wanted to avoid the phrase “quick-web.”
The main characteristic of a Wiki is the ease with which a web page, called a “wiki page,” can be created and edited, often accepted without review or modification. Many wikis are open to the public and require no registration. Some do recommend logging in to provide for a “wiki signature cookie” to automatically sign edits. However, edits often appear in real-time. Private wiki systems may require registration and user authentication to edit, or even read, the content.
Some wikis automatically make copies of past pages; if an error or malicious editing occurs, a previous version can quickly replace the edited content. Many wikis encourage editors to fill out an “edit summary”; this is not published but allows editors to briefly summarize the changes and reason(s) for them.
Wikis may utilize a number of techniques to control changes. A revision history may be available to editors reviewing previous versions of a page or section. A recent changes page may also be consulted. Some regular content viewers may willingly and regularly review page content and be automatically notified of changes.
The open philosophy does sometimes invite malicious changes. However, most wikis approach this problem by making such changes easily deleted or edited out, as opposed to attempting to prevent such malicious editing. Other wikis require a short registration or give extra privileges or editing functions to users with a history of valid editing.