A wiki (/ˈwɪki/ (About this sound listen) WIK-ee) is a website on which users collaboratively modify content and structure directly from the web browser. In a typical wiki, text is written using a simplified markup language and often edited with the help of a rich-text editor.
A wiki is run using wiki software, otherwise known as a wiki engine. A wiki engine is a type of content management system, but it differs from most other such systems, including blog software, in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users. There are dozens of different wiki engines in use, both standalone and part of other software, such as bug tracking systems. Some wiki engines are open source, whereas others are proprietary. Some permit control over different functions (levels of access); for example, editing rights may permit changing, adding or removing material. Others may permit access without enforcing access control. Other rules may be imposed to organize content.
The online encyclopedia project Wikipedia is by far the most popular wiki-based website, and is one of the most widely viewed sites of any kind in the world, having been ranked in the top ten since 2007. Wikipedia is not a single wiki but rather a collection of hundreds of wikis, one for each language. There are tens of thousands of other wikis in use, both public and private, including wikis functioning as knowledge management resources, notetaking tools, community websites and intranets. The English-language Wikipedia has the largest collection of articles; as of September 2016, it had over five million articles. Ward Cunningham, the developer of the first wiki software, WikiWikiWeb, originally described it as "the simplest online database that could possibly work". "Wiki" (pronounced ) is a Hawaiian word meaning "quick".
The first generally recognized 'wiki' application, WikiWikiWeb, was created by American computer programmer Ward Cunningham in 1994 and launched on c2.com in 1995. "WikiWikiWeb" was also the name of the wiki that ran on the software, and in the first years of wikis' existence there was no great distinction made between the contents of wikis and the software they ran on, possibly because almost every wiki ran on its own customized software.
Wiki software originated from older version control systems used for documentation and software in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s these generally had web browser interfaces. However, they lacked the ability to easily create links between internal pages without writing HTML code. For WikiWikiWeb, the CamelCase naming convention was used to indicate internal links, without requiring HTML code.
By the time MediaWiki appeared, this convention had been largely abandoned in favor of explicitly marking links in edited source code with double square brackets. Page names thus did not interrupt the flow of English and could follow standard English capitalization convention. Case-sensitivity on the first letter but not subsequent letters supported standard English capitalization conventions and let writers author their pages in ordinary English, with the linking of particular words and phrases afterward. This proved to be the critical change that allowed ordinary authors of English to write wiki pages, and non-technical users to read them. This policy was extended to other natural languages, avoiding the use of unusual-looking text or awkward capitalization that violates the language's own rules.
Over the next 10 years, many more wiki applications were written, in a variety of programming languages. After 2005, there began to be a move toward increasing consolidation and standardization: many less-popular wiki applications were gradually abandoned, and fewer new applications were created. Relatively few of the wiki engines currently in use were created after 2006.
Wiki functionality has also been added to existing content management systems, such as Microsoft SharePoint.