For most of us, accessing the internet is easier than ever. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, it’s more than likely that you are on the internet more often than you realize. Whether you’re checking Facebook or paying bills, smartphones and tablets have revolutionized the way we experience the internet. It’s not uncommon for some people to access the internet exclusively through their mobile device. While this is an interesting technological innovation, it has forced many online companies to focus on the mobile aspect of their product. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are continually updating and improving the mobile experience with widely available apps for mobile devices.
But other websites have been slow to optimize the user experience on mobile devices. One prime example of that is Wikipedia, the fifth-most popular website on the internet (at least for standard desktop browsers) is struggling to keep up with the increased demand for mobile usability. Only about 20% of Wikipedia’s viewership comes from mobile devices, and only about 1% of the page edits on Wikipedia come from mobile devices. By contrast, users access the Facebook and Twitter apps on their mobile devices equally as much as they access the websites on a standard browser.
What is Holding Wikipedia Back?
In the mobile world, convenience is key. It is much easier to make a Facebook status update or compose a tweet on your phone than it is to wait until you get home to use a computer. With data networks spanning the globe, you can update your status just about anywhere you want. So, that obviously drives traffic to social networking apps.
With Wikipedia, the main way to get involved in the community is to make page edits. Editing an entire Wikipedia page isn’t easy especially when the screen you’re using is so small and you’re forced to type out long passages on an unreliable digital keypad. Most people are generally unwilling to make wholesale edits to a page on their mobile phones because it’s simply easier to do it with a regular keyboard. Coding a Wikipedia page is a lot different than making a status update or a tweet. Typos, accuracy, and fact-checking matter when you’re making edits to a Wikipedia page, and it’s much easier to do that on a bigger screen with a mouse and a keyboard.
What Does this Mean?
Some people fear that this might be the beginning of the end for Wikipedia. As more people migrate over to the exclusive use of mobile devices, it’s becoming increasingly less important for people to have computers. In order for Wikipedia to keep up, some experts suggest that they will need to make a concerted effort at improving the mobile experience for their editors and community members. People still use Wikipedia for gaining information on mobile devices; they just don’t add anything new.
That being said, Wikipedia is already making strides in page edits on mobile devices. In July of 2013, they experienced only around 3,000 edits from mobile devices per month. By February 2014, that number had increased to 20,000 per month. It’s certainly not impossible to edit a Wikipedia page from a mobile device, but it’s going to need to become easier if Wikipedia wants to maintain its collection of around 75,000 dedicated editors.
Ryan Marshall is an online marketing expert specializing in content writing and brand management. He is a regular contributor to many online publications including Yahoo! Voices, All Voices, Digital Journal, CNN iReport, and more.