A Step up from Wikipedia’s Text Only Encyclopedia, let’s learn about WikiGalaxy

Wikipedia is the ‘Bible’ we go to every time we need information on just about everything under the sun, moon and stars. Whatever be our topic, we are sure to find it on Wikipedia whether it’s about Virat Kohli or Anushka Sharma or about Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif or about the God of cricket – Sachin Tendulkar.

Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, Wikipedia has grown to become the largest repository of information on the internet, its free to access and is also editable.

“The English Wikipedia is now one of more than 200 Wikipedias and is the largest with over 4.9 million articles. There is a grand total, including all Wikipedias, of nearly 35 million articles in 288 different languages.As of February 2014, it had 18 billion page views and nearly 500 million unique visitors each month. Globally, Wikipedia had more than 19 million accounts, out of which there were about 69,000 active editors as of November 2014”, According to Wikipedia sources.

Now Comes WikiGalaxy

Now there’s some good news coming your way that could break the monotony of viewing text only information on the internet. Wikipedia.org, the biggest encyclopedic repository of information on the internet, will sometime in the near future have a 3D Avatar. Thanks to the efforts of Owen Cornec, a computer science student from France.

Wikigalaxy Homepage Welcoming WikiGalaxy

Cornec would spend hours on end searching for material on the internet related to his academic work. He would invariably land up browsing through pages upon pages of articles in textual format. It got so monotonous and boring that he decided he must do something to make if fun for people to search for information on the internet.

He mulled over the idea for days on end and spent hours trying to figure out the best way to transform dreary textual content into something more appealing and visually engaging. This is when he came up with WikiGalaxy, a special Wikipedia browser that visualizes the website as a 3D Galaxy or a new 3D avatar of Wikipedia. Each star that you see in Wikigalaxy represents an article, and related entries form clusters of stars. By clicking on a star it loads your entry on the left hand panel along with an image, it simultaneously links to relevant articles on the right.

WikiGalaxy is part of Google Chrome’s Experiments. It was formally launched on November 26th 2014.

Explains Cornec, “I wanted to create something beautiful with technical prowess, using evocative imagery to visualize humanity’s collective knowledge. I also wanted to present something people take for granted in a new way. Wikipedia is now making a hard push to get users to donate, but I believe they should do more to present the immense work of their user base in a more engaging way.” The result, which employs HTML5, CS33, WebGL, jQuery, and THREE.js, is a fascinating new way to explore the universe of information at your fingertips.

Screenshot from 2015 02 05 17 33 15 Wiki Galaxy Welcoming WikiGalaxy

Technologies Used

These are the technologies used to create WikiGalaxy: Javascript: Three.js, node.js, Backbone. Database: Neo4j, SQL. Analysis: Java, Python, C. Graphs: Graphviz, Gephi, OpenOrd. Big data: Hadoop Hive and Pig. Graphics: Photoshop, Premiere, Blender.

On a lighter note: Owen has used: Prototyping: Pen & Paper. Performance: Coffee.

On Wikigalaxy’s homepage he writes, “WikiGalaxy is a 3D web experiment that visualizes Wikipedia as a galactic web of information. With it I aim to show the world the beauty and variety of knowledge that is available at your fingertips. I used 100,000 of 2014’s most popular articles, all clustered with hyperlinks. In this world Wikipedia articles are stars, interests are nebulas and you are on a journey through knowledge”.

On the home page, the search bar is at the left hand top corner, and on the right hand top corner you have icons for fly, map, home, help, about, ul off and full screen modes.

Cornec says, “If you want to make browsing Wiki even more interactive, you can activate the fly mode, which sends you zooming through the stars with each click”. “It’s really a fun way to discover new articles and you have to try it out to enjoy it” he adds.

As of now, the 3D site only has about 100,000 of Wikipedia’s 4.9 million articles, which are interlinked to 500 thematic nebulae forming one gigantic interactive 3D Galaxy. The current version is the beta version.

He adds, “If you need to some serious research, though, you can either use the search box it provides or head back to the good old and reliable Wikipedia website”.

Screen Shot of the Wikigalaxy search for the Time Magazine Welcoming WikiGalaxy

Cornec says, “His next step is color-coding the stars based on their super-categories, like People and Science, Movies and Actors, to name a few”.

He has already begun to work on a more advanced version of WIKIGALAXY, remember he needs to get 4.9 million articles (or stars) and tens of thousands of nebulae to synchronize with each other, not an easy task by any means.

By Sharath Ahuja

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