In the year 2001, the world of researching information on the internet was perhaps changed forever with the launch of a free-content online encyclopedia, the words of which could be openly edited. So began the age of Wikipedia, a time when answers to questions were easily reachable at the tap of a keyboard, to information that is constantly updated at best, biased at worst. It also spawned the “wiki-walk”, where a researcher of a particular subject might get sidetracked by clicking article links for hours. Perhaps it is to alleviate that phenomenon, that a new update was implemented: article previews.
As The Verge tells it, over the weekend the online platform of Wikipedia was upgraded with an additional feature. Now, when browsing a featured article on the encyclopedia, when pointing a mouse over a hyperlink text word, a new popup window will appear next to the link, showing a preview window of the article connected to that word. The preview consists of the article’s opening paragraph and its main photo, where available. In that way the surfer would be able to see the initial contents of the linked article and decide whether or not he wanted to click over there.
Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that owns the Wikipedia domain and a primary segment of the international community expert content contributors to the online encyclopedia, has noted that providing article links with a preview window was “one of the largest changes to desktop Wikipedia made in recent years”. It was conceptualized to help researchers using the platform to keep their browsing relevant to whatever topic they had in mind. Before, Wikipedia users have good-humoredly complained about situations like when a reader of an article about “Skateboarding” clicked links in the text to eventually end up reading about actor “Kevin Bacon”.
To check if the popup previews were proving helpful to readers, the Wikimedia Foundation subjected it to A/B testing in past weeks, giving Wikipedia users the option to deactivate the feature or not. Their statistics have already noted that few wiki readers have turned the new feature off, and furthermore, the amount of article pages they have opened in the course of a day’s visit have visibly reduced due to getting to see what is in a link before they switch over to it. “Mach reader is interacting with the content of more pages while navigating the site,” notes Wikimedia.