Next to Google Search, Wikipedia is probably one of the more useful resources available on the Internet. This online encyclopedia has over 3,000,000 English-language entries, is completely maintained and edited by volunteers, and is used by millions of people every day. Best of all, it is completely free…free of charge, free of advertising, free of the “noise” which plagues so many other sources of information. It is difficult to imagine how it could be made better.
Well, an iPad app call Discover has just kicked Wikipedia’s usefulness up a few notches. The app is free and is available on iTunes. It is a viewer which takes the information on Wikipedia and reformats it into pages designed for the iPad’s touch navigation. This seemingly minor change will supercharge the usefulness of Wikipedia.
Here are two identical Wikipedia entries, one on the desktop is viewed via a browser, the other on the iPad viewed using Discover. While all of the images and text information are the same, the iPad presentation is clearly the more visual of the two. All of the links in the Wiki page are still present: related information is presented on the right, additional text is scrolled in using the usual iPad navigation/touch techniques.
We recently downloaded the Discover app, and after playing with it briefly, the advantage of this app is clear. By grouping and presenting the related Wikipedia information in a tap-able format, it makes navigating to them much more compelling. Take yesterday’s review of the Richard Avedon exhibit at the MFA for example. A search on “Avedon” brought up the Wiki page on the photographer. To the right are some related entries, one of which is Funny Face. As it turns out, Funny Face is a movie about an American photographer named Dick Avery in Paris, played by Fred Astaire, and was inspired by Avedon. Now, we may or may not have clicked on the link in the brower, but seeing the Funny Face icon made us want to tap on it. How cool is that?
We believe that this elegant reformating and presentation of Wikipedia data, already freely available, makes the information even more valuable, accessible, and useful. A game-changing device such as the iPad will continue to spur the development of unanticipated apps like Wikipedia Discover. Now THAT is magical.