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Law Professor Predicts Wikipedia's Demise

As marketers turn to automated tools to alter Wikipedia entries in order to generate online traffic, the professor predicts Wikipedians will burn out trying to keep entries clean.

Wikipedia will fail in four years, crushed under the weight of an automated assault by marketers and others seeking online traffic.

So says law professor Eric Goldman, who predicts Wikipedia's downfall in a blog post made on Tuesday. Goldman predicted a five-year lifespan for Wikipedia last year, and this post represents a reiteration of his position.

Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, argues that Wikipedia will see increasingly vigorous efforts to subvert its editorial process, much as Digg has seen. As marketers become more determined and turn to automated tools to alter Wikipedia entries to generate online traffic, Goldman predicts Wikipedians will burn out trying to keep entries clean.

"Thus, Wikipedia will enter a death spiral where the rate of junkiness will increase rapidly until the site becomes a wasteland," Goldman writes. "Alternatively, to prevent this death spiral, Wikipedia will change its core open-access architecture, increasing the database's vitality by changing its mission somewhat."

As precedent, Goldman cites the fate of the Open Directory Project, a user-edited Web directory, which he says "is now effectively worthless."

"I love Wikipedia," Goldman concludes. "I use it every day. Based on the stats from my Google personalized search, Wikipedia is the No. 1 site I click on from Google search results. So I'm not rooting for it to fail. But the very architecture of Wikipedia contains the seeds of its own destruction. Without fame or fortune, I don't think Wikipedia's incentive system is sustainable."

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