Online encyclopedia

An online encyclopedia, also called a digital encyclopedia, is an encyclopedia accessible through the internet. The idea to build a free encyclopedia using the Internet can be traced at least to the 1994 Interpedia proposal; it was planned as an encyclopedia on the Internet to which everyone could contribute materials. The project never left the planning stage and was overtaken by a key branch of old printed encyclopedias.

Digitization of old content


There are a lot of old encyclopedias and dictionaries of national biographies on Wikisource both in English and other languages. The completion of these encyclopedias vary and the quality of the content varies from proofread, to poor quality text with many optical character recognition errors.
NameOriginal publicationLanguageCompletionLinkNotes
Allgemeine Deutsche Biographiede
The Encyclopedia Americana1906en
The Encyclopedia Americana1920en
The Cyclopædia of American Biography1918en
New American Cyclopædia1897en
Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography1900en
Encyclopædia Britannica Ninth Edition1875–1889en
Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition1911en
Encyclopædia Britannica Twelfth Edition1922en
Catholic Encyclopedia1913en100%Also referred to today as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia; The first volume appeared in March 1907 and it was completed in April 1914
Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century1911en
Collier's Encyclopediaen
Complete Encyclopaedia of Music1880en
Neue Deutsche Biographiede
Diccionario Geográfico de la República de Chilees
Easton's Bible Dictionaryen
Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe sièclefr
Grove's A Dictionary of Music and Musicians1879–1889enKnown in its 21st century edition as Grove Music Online
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities1890en
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology1870en
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography1854en
Dictionary of Indian Biography1906en
The Indian Biographical Dictionaryen
New International Encyclopediaen
Jewish Encyclopedia1905en
Dictionary of National Biography1885–1900en
Dictionary of National Biography1901en
Dictionary of National Biography1912en
The Nuttall Encyclopædia1907en100%


Many encyclopedias are available at the Internet Archive website. Although the original text is viewable the machine readable text is often poor with many OCR errors.
In January 1995, Project Gutenberg started to publish the ASCII text of
the Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition, but disagreement about the method halted the work after the first volume. For trademark reasons this has been published as the Gutenberg Encyclopedia. Project Gutenberg later restarted work on digitising and proofreading this encyclopedia. Project Gutenberg has published volumes in alphabetic order the most recent publication is Volume 17 Slice 8: Matter–Mecklenburg published on 7 April 2013. The latest Britannica was digitized by its publishers, and sold first as a CD-ROM, and later as an online service.
In 2001, ASCII text of all 28 volumes was published on Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition by source; a copyright claim was added to the materials included. The website no longer exists.
Other digitization projects have made progress in other titles. One example is Easton's Bible Dictionary digitized by the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
A successful digitization of an encyclopedia was the Bartleby Project's online adaptation of the Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, in early 2000 and is updated periodically.
There are other websites that provide online encyclopedias, some of which are also available on Wikisource, but which may be more complete than those on Wikisource, or may be different editions.

Creation of new content

Another related branch of activity is the creation of new, free contents on a volunteer basis. In 1991, the participants of the Usenet newsgroup started a project to produce a real version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a fictional encyclopedia used in the works of Douglas Adams. It became known as Project Galactic Guide. Although it originally aimed to contain only real, factual articles, the policy was changed to allow and encourage semi-real and unreal articles as well. Project Galactic Guide contains over 1700 articles, but no new articles have been added since 2000; this is probably partly due to the founding of h2g2, a more official project along similar lines.
Another early online encyclopedia was called the Global Encyclopedia. In November 1995 a review of it was presented by James Rettig College of William and Mary at the 15th Annual Charleston Conference on library acquisitions and related issues. He said of the Global Encyclopedia:
He then gives several examples of article entries such as Iowa City: