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Posted: April 25, 2005

Still in its early stages, Wikispecies is envisioned an open-source directory of all species, including animalia, plantae, fungi, bacteria, archaea, and protista. It's sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation, the international nonprofit sponsor of the open-source encyclopedia Wikipedia, among other, similar projects.

A wiki, named for the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki, or "quick," is essentially an online database whose contents anyone can edit. Any visitor can add to or edit the taxonomy presented in Wikispecies, for instance, using the simple online tools provided. Likewise, anyone can edit an article or action made by another user. Over time, this collaborative arrangement can have powerful effects—Wikipedia is now three times the size of the online Encyclopedia Britannica, for instance.

At this writing, Wikispecies is still young, and its database is essentially a framework corresponding to the Linnaean taxonomy, with links to articles on individual species in Wikipedia. Its final form and function are still being discussed. Interested visitors can voice their opinions at the "village pump," and potential contributors can also review a list of frequently asked questions and a helpful "done and to do" list that summarizes areas of the taxonomy that have been well populated and those that need attention. All in all, it's an ambitious project that bears watching.

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