Encyclosphere

From Encyclosphere Project Wiki

The encyclosphere (common noun) is explained at encyclosphere.org/what. The Encyclosphere (proper noun), refers to this project, explained on the Main Page.

Mission statement: Make the encyclosphere, the universal network of encyclopedias. The encyclosphere is a network of encyclopedias, presently existing and future, large and small. Encyclopedia articles are to the encyclosphere what blog posts are to the blogosphere. Bloggers work entirely independently of each other, but because they make their posts available in feeds, “blog readers” make it possible to aggregate all the blogs for the convenience of readers. It’s the sharing economy at its finest. We want to do the same thing for encyclopedia articles. The encyclosphere is distributed and resistant to censorship.

The encyclosphere will be the universal network of encyclopedias—an ownerless, leaderless, centerless knowledge commons. Like the blogosphere, it will be a decentralized series of “feeds,” but feeds of encyclopedias and individual articles posted anywhere online.

Data from these feeds can be aggregated by different services, then developers will use the aggregated data to build encyclopedia reader apps, with none being privileged or “official.”

The brand-new, non-profit Knowledge Standards Foundation (KSF) is organizing the discussion and formulation of the standards (technical specifications) for this system (at encyclosphere.org—right here).

The KSF will never build an encyclopedia app; instead, it will facilitate development of technical specifications and the tools needed to let others build the network.

The KSF is and will remain 100% independent of any corporation or government and is absolutely committed to other founding principles, including neutrality, credibility, free speech, responsibility, and openness.

For both technical development and funding, we rely on donations from the general public: individuals and families.

What is an encyclosphere?

Blogs give everyone an independent voice. All blogs taken together are called the “blogosphere,” but there is no single, central blog repository and no blogging authority. That is a good thing. Can you imagine what it might be like if all our blogs were ultimately controlled by a giant, powerful organization like Facebook, Twitter, or Wikipedia?

Technical standards for formatting, sharing, and interlinking blog posts made the blogosphere possible: the RSS and Atom specifications. The nontechnical basics about these standards are easy and important to understand. They are simply a way to format info about blog posts and to let bloggers alert the world when their blog has changed. In general, they allow for an organized type of interconnected, networked activity—blogging—without a central, controlling body.

Plenty of websites, such as wordpress.com (currently the leader according to alexa.com), tumblr.com, medium.com, and blogger.com, have tried to become the home of blogging online. But none has been able to gain exclusive dominance, because it’s just too easy to move your blog elsewhere. The existence of common blogging standards makes that possible.

We need to do for encyclopedias what blogging standards did for blogs: there needs to be an “encyclosphere.” We should build a totally decentralized network, like the blogosphere—or like email, IRC, blockchains, and the World Wide Web itself. The encyclosphere would give everyone an equal voice in expressing knowledge (or claims to knowledge), and in rating those expressions of knowledge. There would be no single, central knowledge repository and no central knowledge authority.

So, considering how RSS and Atom enabled the development of the decentralized blogosphere, we need to develop technical standards for encyclopedias. That’s where the Knowledge Standards Foundation comes in.

Writers and publishers would then be able to post feeds of encyclopedia articles (or metadata about articles, and ratings of articles). App developers would be able to collect the data from all of those feeds and use the data to construct massive search engines, and other neat features, for all the encyclopedia articles in the world. No single app would be privileged, but all would tap into—and help build—a “knowledge commons.” Ultimately there would be a massive knowledge competition to best express human knowledge on every topic and from every point of view.

There’s never been anything like this. But if we get together, we can build it. Nobody’s stopping us. We’ll never run out of runway because it’s not a startup. It’s a distributed, collective project, an open source movement that is bigger than any of us (and certainly much bigger than the Knowledge Standards Foundation, which serves only as the catalyst).

How It Will Work (Technical Details)

Read a technical proposal on a separate page.