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Google or Wikipedia - Which is Your First Stop? 171

dwarfking asks: "Over the last several months I have noticed that more and more often, when I am searching for information on the web, I find myself starting at Wikipedia instead of Google. It used to be that the first hit on many of my Google searches linked to Wikipedia articles, so I started going there first. I've found that except for searching for current events, by starting with Wikipedia I get a good explanation of the topic of interest and the pages generally have links to other good resources that are right on topic (without the need to scroll through dozens of hits). Are others of you seeing similar shifts in your search usage and if so, do any of you think this could become a trend for the larger community? If so, then what could that potentially mean for Google?"
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Google or Wikipedia - Which is Your First Stop?

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  • Google wins (Score:5, Informative)

    by crazyjeremy ( 857410 ) * on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:27AM (#16528377) Homepage Journal
    Although Wikipedia is certainly a top ranking search engine result for many subjects, it is certainly not an exhaustive resource. It's an encyclopedia. As such, I find that when I search google that sooner or later (usually 1 - 3 tries) I find keywords that give some sort of appropriate results. If I am searching for specific subjects that I know may be found in an encyclopedia, I start with google again and search " somesubject" or even "wikipedia somesubject". The latter search is because many people will have an informative page on their own website with more/different information than wikipedia, but they will reference wikipedia for some of their text.

    Good question, but personally I still always start with google. Unless I'm simply in wikipedia research mode, then I can sit for hours in front of the thing going from one article to the next...
    • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) * on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:16PM (#16528715) Homepage Journal

      Google is still the first place I go for most of my queries. However, I find myself going to Wikipedia first when I want an overview of a topic and I know I've got a good keyword to get to it. And often when I'm using Google, the first article I look at is the Wikipedia entry.

      Where my usage has really changed is when my first choice of keywords for Google leads to too many wrong responses (too much verbiage about Paris Hilton when looking for hotels in Paris). When this happens I now often look for a Wikipedia article to scan for better keywords to feed to Google. This is a very slick way of quickly narrowing the scope of the search.

      Google is incredible. Who would have guessed that searching with "30 mi + 10 km = ? leagues" would get an answer?

    • Re:Google wins (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mitaphane ( 96828 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @01:02PM (#16529029) Homepage
      You're right. A lot people mistakenly think that the Wikipedia is a huge ball that encompasses every piece of human knowledge, it's not []. It's an encyclopedia, albeit one that can covers topics traditionally considered too trivial for print standards. I made that mistake before I got big into editing for the Wikipedia. The Wikipedia covers a lot of information but there is some information that it isn't made for. Want to know where 123 Fake St. is at in your home town? Wikipedia won't help you. Want to know what movies are playing tonight? Wikipedia won't help you. Want to know, in detail, about the life of the president [] of an obscure African country? Wikipedia will help you, but not as much as it will help you know about every single, obscure, trivial detail of a fictional character's [] life.
      • Re:Google wins (Score:4, Informative)

        by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @01:28PM (#16529243)
        If the information you want is in wikipedia, it's far more pleasant than wading through all the irrelevant ads and garbage that come up on Google.

        I'll use google if I want to buy something, or for specific sorts of preprogrammed searches, like Google Calculator, or tracking UPS packages, or if I already know something is on another site, and then include the site address in the search. Looking for anything general on Google is just asking for irritation.

      • A lot people mistakenly think that the Wikipedia is a huge ball that encompasses every piece of human knowledge, it's not. It's an encyclopedia,

        Wait. Encyclo means all, and pedia means teaching, or knowledge, and yet you say it's not a ball of every piece of human knowledge, it's all knowledge?

        • Well the emtymology of the word "encyclopedia" is close to that(see link) and that is close to the goal of an encyclopedia [], but it is impossible to a have some master document/website/whatever that contains every human thought about every subject ever. At best you could say an encyclopedia covers the most important topics to humanity. The format of an encyclopedia is one that it summarizes important information and topics regarding a specific subject into a reasonable article. Example: an encyclopedic artic
    • I tend to use Wikipedia for "what is/who is?" type questions, and google for "how do I?" type questions.
    • by MikeFM ( 12491 )
      I don't like Wikipedia's sarch so I go straight to Google and search Wikipedia.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Unless I'm simply in wikipedia research mode, then I can sit for hours in front of the thing going from one article to the next...

      Yeap, I have never read so much about history and other random topics before I started reading Wikipedia. It's almost addictive. I also signed up for Brittanica to give it a fair trial, and while the writing is somewhat better, the linking is generally pretty hopeless, and the coverage of some topics very basic. So although I read some articles, it didn't lead me on constantly to
  • Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bconway ( 63464 ) * on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:28AM (#16528385) Homepage
    If the Wikipedia entry is worthwhile (believe it or not, sometimes it isn't), it'll be listed first in your search. Best of both worlds.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by epine ( 68316 )
      A few months back, google would sometimes spew up eight copies of the same terrible article in Wikipedia if the search phrase was sufficiently obscure (sackbutt, anyone?) on the first results page. Then Google wised up and began to filter all the Wikipedia knock-offs, but unwisely, I now often find high quality Wikipedia pages halfway down my search results after a bundle of terrible results. In my opinion, Google has now gone a little too far in suppressing Wikipedia page results. I would generally like
    • Works [] for me [].
  • by Tyger ( 126248 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:29AM (#16528389)
    I usually start with google and make sure I have the right spelling, then the appropriate Wikipedia article is one of the first links, so I click on that.
  • It depends.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alicat1194 ( 970019 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:34AM (#16528411)
    If I'm looking for information on a given concept or word, I go straight to Wikipedia. If I'm looking for more general or technical information on a subject, I go to Google.

    To me it's not really an either/or situation, plus Wikipedia can be very lacking in some areas, especially current events or information about more specialised fields.

    I'd say Wikipedia and Google are safe from each other (though leaning more towards Wikipedia, since Google often sends you there anyway).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by daranz ( 914716 )
      I'd tend to agree. Wikipedia is great if you want basic information on a particular subject, and you know that google results are likely to contain a lot of noise (such as when searching for a name of a product, or a company).

      On the other hand, Google is better for less precise search terms, such when you can't remember the origin of a movie quote, or some other reference, or when you're looking for something that can't fit under one title on wikipedia.
    • Re:It depends.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @02:08PM (#16529533)
      Aye. I've been trying to go back and improve ID3 tags on music I ripped long ago - adding original release dates for songs so I can organize music by release - especially hard for music I bought on compilation CDs that released much later.

      Google's music search system is fantastic - but it doesn't carry enough information. I have to follow a link to a vendor site to get release information, or to find a larger picture of the album cover to save.

      Wikipedia, however, has discography for almost every band, with detailed release information and usually a good-quality album cover. I've started using it first, and only going to Google when Wikipedia's article is missing or incomplete (which is rare).
      • by booch ( 4157 )
        For searches like that, I'd probably go to first.
        • No, sorry, that seems woefully inadequate. I pulled up one article, on The Byrds.

          (page is a .dll - just search for 'The Byrds')
          The main page looks nice, but the only discography is a small icon of six albums. Clicking on those takes me to a great page for each album, with very detailed information, but The Byrds had more than six albums! There also doesn't seem to be anything more than names listed for most songs. I'd like more detail, which is especially important when bands release
  • Depends (Score:3, Informative)

    by gellenburg ( 61212 ) <> on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:35AM (#16528421) Homepage Journal
    Depends on what I'm searching for. If its something thats specialized then I start with Wikipedia. If its broad and general then I start with Google.

    Although, I've got to admit, there's this extension for FireFox that embeds the Wikipedia entries into the Google search results page. I use it at work, and for the life of me I can't remember its name right now, but its awesome.
  • Wikipedia! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dieppe ( 668614 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:37AM (#16528437) Homepage
    Me too! The nice thing is for any particular search topic, rather when you have a specific topic, the links that have been added at the bottom of the article are by helpful people (humans) adding those links. Don't get me wrong, I like Google, but the links are all automated. With Wikipedia I know I'm getting something that someone's at least personally looked at at least once and felt it was helpful for that subject.

    So yeah... me too. :)

  • I would say (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarthChris ( 960471 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:38AM (#16528439)
    This is a moot point.

    I'm being serious. Google is supposed to tell you where to find what you're looking for, like the catalog computer in a library that tells you exactly which shelf to go to, whereas Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, an indiviual book in the library. Comparing the two is IMHO completely pointless.
    • > This is a moot point. I'm being serious. Google is supposed to tell you where to find what you're looking for, like the catalog computer in a library that tells you exactly which shelf to go to, whereas Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, an indiviual book in the library. Comparing the two is IMHO completely pointless.

      Quite often, the Wikipedia article is one of the top links returned by Google.
  • Googlepædia (Score:5, Informative)

    by AberBeta ( 851747 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:38AM (#16528449) Homepage
    I do both at once!

    With a Firefox extension called Googlepedia, I "Google" happily, and it'll include (if found) a relevant Wikipedia page to the side of the search results.
  • Google (Score:4, Informative)

    by neonstz ( 79215 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:42AM (#16528475) Homepage
    I always use google for searching, but often I add wikipedia to my search query to get the wikipedia article. I find it faster than using the wikipedia search.
  • Google.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PyrotekNX ( 548525 )
    I still use Google for my initial searches. I have been noticing that the hits I get are becoming less relavant as time goes on. This is obviously because sponsored links are constantly bringing up irrelavant hits. I don't consider Wikipedia as a traditional search engine so its not going to be able to replace Google. Both still have their usefulness in different ways. Until I get fed up woth my current searching strategy, Google will be my first choice.
  • So Google is now turning to Slashdot for marketing research?! I can hear the stock price starting to slip into oblivion...
  • []Googlepedia
  • by richg74 ( 650636 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:43AM (#16528493) Homepage
    I use both Google and Wikipedia a lot, and which I use first depends on what I'm looking for; or, to put it another way, how well I understand what it is I'm looking for.

    For example, if I want to find information about "Maxwell's Equations" or "Plate Tectonics", I'd probably go to Wikipedia first, because I'm pretty sure I know what I want. Even if the Wikipedia entry itself doesn't contain the information I'm seeking, it probably has a link to someplace that does. On the other hand, if I'm looking for information about something less clearly defined, of less general interest, or subject to frequent change, like "Linux printer drivers" perhaps, then Google is the way to go. (To complete the idea of a spectrum of resources: if I wanted a driver for an HP printer, I'd obviously go directly to HP's site.)

    I don't think your observation portends any great shift away from Google, since I suspect that most queries made by most people fall into the second category.

  • Neither (Score:5, Interesting)

    by acvh ( 120205 ) <geek@m s c i g a r> on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:45AM (#16528501) Homepage
    I switched to for searches about six months ago. Their first results page generally contains:

    First: either a WIkipedia link or a link to the "official" site, depending on what you searched for. Ask is good at identifying the nature of the search.
    Second: about 10 relevant links, with no junk, no ad site, no sales sites.

    The downside is that Ask's advertising links are rather obtrusive; they put them at the top and bottom of the page, with a subtly different background color.

    My switch from Google was based on a combination of performance and politics: I don't really miss it.
    • Hm, interesting! I just tried a product search on ("sony k800i") and indeed, there are no stupid product sites cluttering up the results. Just reviews and information. Google is not bad, but about half the results are product pages.

      Thanks for the tip..
  • by DesireCampbell ( 923687 ) <> on Saturday October 21, 2006 @11:46AM (#16528509) Homepage
    I usually check Wikipedia first. Usually has whatever information I need, reviewed by hundreds (if not thousands) of people, and relevant links and references. But, I also always check the 'Talk Page' to see if any information is being disputed, or if there have been bouts of vandalism. Sometimes I'll try search Google for "wiki [subject]" to see if there's a wiki for that topic specifically, but often such specificity is not necessary - and if such a wiki exists it's usually referenced in the Wikipedia entry as well. If I see anything that appears out-of-order, or if my questions about the topic aren't answered fully, I always turn to Google.

    So, while Wikipedia is my first stop, it's rarely my final stop.
  • Easy! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Threni ( 635302 )
    Wikipedia for a quick answer, but Google for the right answer!
  • If I just want to find out what something is and I've got a pretty good idea of what to search for, I go to Wikipedia.

    But for pretty much everything else, I use google. Wikipedia is a great resource for finding out about specific things, but that's only a small percentage of what I need to find online. For example, at work a while back we were having power issues with a recently upgraded room (a computer lab, previously filled with laptops and now filled with desktops, plus there were more systems than befo
  • Neither (Score:3, Funny)

    by wetfeetl33t ( 935949 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:03PM (#16528629)
    I usually just write to Ann Landers
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mgabrys_sf ( 951552 )
      If every Slashdot reader sent a piece of snail mail to her, could you "Slashdot" Ann Landers?

      • by booch ( 4157 )
        Seeing as how Ann Landers has been dead for 4 years, I don't think that'd work to well. And according to Wikipedia (what else?) her column is no longer written either.
  • by Bad Boy Marty ( 15944 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:28PM (#16528783) Homepage
    If I want some sort of traditional reference material, the first best stop for me is [].

    If I'm looking for almost anything else, I go directly to [].
  • For me, it depends on my comfort level on the subject matter. If I know nothing or very little about a subject, I tend to start at Wikipedia first, so that I can get a general overview on the subject. If I know a lot about the subject and just would like more details, typically I can get the information faster through a search engine of my choice (not necessarily Google... PubMed and other resources, too).

    I also tend to take Wikipedia's entries with a grain of salt. It just tells me what a bunch of peop
  • I've actaully learned to use the search function in Firefox, which instantly goes for Google searches.

    Here's the thing though. When I want Wikipedia, I don't go to Wikipedia. Instead, I search for "topic wikipedia" which always results in Google content, plus direct links to the Wikipedia article. That way, I can tab-open the Wikipedia article and simultaneously browse Google.

    Clever, huh?
  • When I want to search, I use Google. Wikipedia is not a search engine.

    If I want an encyclopedia article on a specific topic, I use Wikipedia.

    If I want to search Wikipedia, I use Google (Wikipedia's search function sucks).

    I've found that except for searching for current events, by starting with Wikipedia I get a good explanation of the topic of interest and the pages generally have links to other good resources that are right on topic (without the need to scroll through dozens of hits).

    Interestingly, if

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:51PM (#16528943)
    The problem with Google these days, is if you search for ANYTHING that can be purchased, almost all of the hit results will be for places selling that thing with a handful of actually relevent hits randomly stewn in between.

    I was searching for data on "USB Mass Storage support in Windows 98" - That was a mistake; Pretty much ALL the hits were for the selling ofr USB Flash drives, with a couple of informational hits, which had nothing to do with Win98.

    Google's search quality was extremely good when it first came out, esp. compared to its primary rivals at the time (Altavista/Yahoo), but as it's risen to the top, it's basically been hacked.
    The search quality is now as bad as Yahoo and Altavista's used to be, when they were the premiere search engines in the old Modem-days.

    IMHO, all sales-related hits should be shucked into Froogle; That alone would clear up the search results substantially.
    • What I hate the most is attempting to search for free software for a particular task (not knowing the name of the free software in advance). The links are always spammed up with crappy $29.95 shareware programs instead of the high-quality free alternative that you know exists somewhere.

      For example, try a Google search for "Palm dictionary". Adding things like "+free -buy -shareware" doesn't really help. In my case, I happened to know that WordNet was a good keyword to add to the search and eventually fou
    • You're right; Google has been flooded with crap.

      Give [] a try. The site itself is nothing revolutionary since it uses existing Google search options, but it does give you a nice list of spamwords to filter out and include in your Firefox keyword search.
  • by objekt ( 232270 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @12:51PM (#16528945) Homepage
    If I want to know the cast of a movie, I use IMDB.
    If I want to see older versions of a web page, I use the wayback machine at
    If I want a quick summary of a single subject, I use wikipedia
    If I need to know the name of a song from a few lyrical fragments, I use google.

    Google is a search engine for most of the web so if I HAD to limit myself to one starting place, it would be google. Or dogpile :D
  • If I'm looking for something I know I want in Wikipedia, well, I just type "wikipedia dinosaurs" (or whatever) into the Google search box. First result usually takes me to the Wikipedia page I want.
  • Since I don't use Google at all (I use search engines that don't fall prey to blackhat tactics as easy) and I use Wikipedia on a daily basis, I would have to say that Wikipedia is the one I go to first.
  • Google is still my first stop for many things, but for a LOT of queries I do, it's google with '' as
    part of the query. And more and more often I find myself typing in T o_Know_About []

    I would definitely say that my search habits are shifting in a gradual fashion, towards using wikipedia more and more. But Wikipedia
    hasn't replaced Google, they kinda supplement each other.
  • When looking for technical information, my experience has been that searches on Google will typically yield mailing list emails harvested by any number of websites. Similarly, Google Groups searches mostly yield usenet posts harvested by Google. To save myself the grief, I just subscribe to the mailing list (or newsgroup) in question and find the information myself. Faster, cleaner (regex searches) and easier. If I haven't yet subscribed to the mailing list in question, I'll just suck down as much hist
  • Neither? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AlXtreme ( 223728 ) on Saturday October 21, 2006 @01:52PM (#16529417) Homepage Journal
    I've been using Clusty [] for the last 18 months. A meta-searchengine combined with a Wikipedia-search, the best of both worlds!
  • Are others of you seeing similar shifts in your search usage and if so, [...] what could that potentially mean for Google?"

    What it could mean for google is obvious but a more interesting question is: what could it mean for Wikipedia? What happens when the "search rankings" industry decides that being well-linked from Wikipedia is important too?
  • If I want to know general information about a certain topic, I can look it up on wikipedia for an overview of info, but if I'm looking to learn how to do something specific, say how to solve a technical problem, then google is the only choice.
  • So I end up using Google one way or another. I almost always end up with Wikipedia returning a search error and asking me if I wasnt to use Google to search for what I'm looking for.
  • I concur. However, I find Wiki's searching to be a little lame as compared to google, so I end up just doing a google search for what I want, and also stick "wiki" or "wikipedia" as a search term, too, and usually the first result is the wikipedia article. Works like a charm almost all of the time. (And sometimes, you end up stumbling across non-wikipedia but specialized wikis for the topic at hand, which isn't a bad thing :)
  • My google searches usually start with "Noun Wikipedia" :)
    1. I had no idea Wikipedia was anywhere near as useful as it seems from the (admittedly biased) sample of prior responses
    2. Google will buy Wikipedia (might take a few thousand more posts)
  • I'm a (part-time) magazine feature writer. My two most recent articles were about interactive tabletop displays in museums, and the history of cannabinoids.

    For the museum article, Google was more help: There was no way to parse "interactive tabletop displays" in a way that Wikipedia would return a useful, comprehensive page. On the other hand, WP has a great page on "cannabinoids" that led to a lot of useful references.

    Ultimately I used both, though. For instance, I used WP to understand some electronics te
  • by solferino ( 100959 ) <hazchem&gmail,com> on Saturday October 21, 2006 @09:32PM (#16532791) Homepage
    I think this is a very interesting topic and one that I have been thinking about over the last few months. I suspect that Google has identified Wikipedia as a key competitor for the following reason. Wikipedia has the advantage over Google in terms of convenience. When most people want to know about something they usually just want a basic collection of descriptive facts so they can form a general impression. Wikipedia is very good for this. With Google however they have to sort through a collection of search results and perhaps visit two or more sites before they get an answer. This lowers the convenience level several steps. Convenience is very often most important to the typical user.

    I'm sure that Google would be monitoring the click-through rate to Wikipedia. For more data they might also be measuring the increase in people typing a search query and then adding the word 'wikipedia' after it to make sure that they get the wikipedia page coming up first in the results list. If the users are clued-up they can just submit the request by hitting 'I feel lucky' and go straight there.

    More interestingly, when using Firefox users can have the search box set to wikipedia and can then very conveniently type the name of a person or country or a general concept into this box and go directly to the wikipedia page. Using this method no search site is used at all.

    Google is still very useful when one knows how to search for things using particular strings of words or combinations of search terms but this is not something that most people are very proficient at. Wikipedia is a better lowest common denominator and I mean this not as an insult but rather as a compliment.
  • Funnily enough if you could check my Google history, you would find that about quoter of all my requests in Google starts with word "wikipedia". And Google obediently fetches me relevant pages from wikipedia ;-)

  • I've got search shortcuts set up for google, wikipedia, google image search, and imdb with Quicksilver [] on my mac. If I'm looking for information on a person or thing I'm unfamiliar with, I go to wikipedia. I go to google when I'm looking for a particular site (Belgium Dog Quarantine) or a lot of sites ("Getting things Done"). IMDB is pretty much only for TV and movies.

    Using Quicksilver means I never have to relearn habits. Let's say "" becomes better than google. I can just change the shortcut and no
  • Wikipedia's internal search blows. When I'm curious about something, I type "wikipedia topic" into google, where topic can be pretty much anything. Then, even if "topic" isn't exactly what the title of the article is, I'll get some hits to start with. I almost never use Wikipedia's own search function. Google FTW.
  • by NekoXP ( 67564 )
    Actually.. being the lazy soul I am, and since I have a personal start page on Google, I just go straight for that.

    And then type in "Wikipedia Blah Blah" with my search term.

    The Google index just seems a little more reliable in "guessing" the article I wanted, than the "please try and work out the exact article name" Wikis tend to employ.

The absent ones are always at fault.