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The Most-Edited Wikipedia Pages Over The Last 15 Years

Wikipedia will turn 15 years old tomorrow. The free online collaborative encyclopedia has grown explosively: from fewer than 500,000 English-language articles in 2005 to more than 5 million in 2015. And as the site has grown, so have the edits to its pages.

Our former colleague Mona Chalabi previously compiled the most-edited Wikipedia entries of all time. So in recognition of Wikipedia’s 15th anniversary, we asked the site’s operator, the Wikimedia Foundation, for data on the most-changed entries of English-language Wikipedia in each year. (Scroll to the bottom for the 10 most-edited entries each year.)

More Culture

Below are the top three most-edited individual entries each year since Wikipedia launched in 2001, based on data the foundation sent us.1 These lists mostly include fast-changing, high-profile pages but also contain pages about esoteric topics that for whatever reason sparked edit wars. On the list are a broad range of entries — touching upon death, politics, pop culture and more.

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These annual lists don’t overlap entirely with the list of most edited articles overall. Pages on topics that have evolved throughout Wikipedia’s history — such as Britney Spears, India and Roger Federer — are among the most edited of all time but have never made an annual top 10 list.

The top 10 lists also serve as a reminder that while Wikipedia has continued to grow during its 15 years, the number of edits, like the number of editors, plateaued about a decade ago. Since 2005, the top page each year typically gets edited about 20,000 times, a number that has held steady.

Here’s a rundown of some themes across the years:

Death

Wikipedians are obsessed with tracking deaths. In each year since 2007, the Wikipedia entry “Deaths in [year]” topped the list. Deaths in 2015, for instance, garnered 18,271 edits last year — more than double the next closest entry. (The “Deaths in” entries were so popular that we decided to remove them from the chart above.)

Other morbid entries near the top of yearly rankings: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, 2009 flu pandemic and 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Politics

Predictably, political personalities and controversial events were among the most-changed entries across several years. Elections, wars and scandals abound. For instance, former U.S. president George W. Bush ranked in the top 10 each year from 2002 to 2005. His successor, Barack Obama, has among the most-edited Wikipedia entries ever. A new pope is sure to get attention, too: Benedict ranked No. 8 in 2005, and Francis was No. 10 in 2013.

Politically charged deaths and terrorist incidents were also common. The No. 7 page in 2014 was the Shooting of Michael Brown, while the Charlie Hebdo shooting ranked highly in 2015.

Pop culture

Wikipedia is clearly a popular forum for people to adjudicate debates about “American Idol” seasons (which appear each year from 2011 to 2013), Harry Potter and WWE wrestlers. What better place to dive deep on Britney Spears’s 2007 album “Blackout”? Also, coming in at No. 9 last year was a page about the latest season of “Asia’s Next Top Model.”

Weather

There are a lot of weather geeks on Wikipedia, it appears. In addition to Hurricane Katrinas No. 2 ranking in 2005, three pages about a year’s Atlantic Ocean hurricane season — for 2005, 2010 and 2012 — also were heavily edited. And it’s not just hurricanes, either: the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Pacific typhoon seasons also ranked near the top.

The esoteric and arcane

One of the most-edited entries last year was Geospatial summary of the High Peaks/Summits of the Juneau Icefield. Well, of course!

Other surprising entries that were edited heavily over the years: a compilation of mathematics concepts, in 2002; Sexual slang, in 2004; and List of works by Eugène Guillaume, in both 2013 and 2014. (Guillaume was a French sculptor, by the way. Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Here are the 10 most-edited entries each year:


Source: Wikimedia Foundation


 

Footnotes

  1. Wikipedia also has a number of frequently edited pages that aggregate individual entries, such as yearly “Deaths in” entries, or annual summary entries like 2008. We didn’t count those pages for the following chart, but they are included in the table at the end of the article.

Andrew Flowers writes about economics and sports for FiveThirtyEight.

Carl Bialik is FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news.

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