Ever wish you had access to Wikipedia when you weren’t online? Okay, if you’ve got a smartphone or some always-connected tablet, chances are this isn’t really an issue for you. But if you’ve got an iDevice and don’t always have a wifi connection handy, now you can carry Wikipedia with you.
Brilliant(ish) Software recently released All Of Wikipedia – Offline, an app that downloads — you guessed it — all of Wikipedia onto your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Well, almost. It leaves out the images and some sections like “External Links” and “References” to keep the file size down, though if you’ve got an internet connection you have the option of downloading images while you browse.
At $8.99, the app isn’t cheap, but if you use Wikipedia a lot it may be worth it — or read to the bottom to learn how you could win a free download code. Even if you usually have a connection, having the files actually on your device makes searches almost instantaneous. The app has a simple, clean interface which allows you to customize the display fonts and bookmark articles. The first time you install the app, you’ll need to download the Wikipedia dump file (roughly 5GB) which takes a long time — I recommend running it overnight. The purchase includes two full downloads (per device), and then it’s a buck after that, if you want to update the entire file (which Wikipedia does roughly once a month). Also, the app is available in English, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian (with more planned).
Gareth of Brilliant(ish) took the time to answer a few questions about the app. Check out this brief Q&A, and then leave a comment for your chance to win a free copy of the app.
GeekDad: Is it really all of Wikipedia? What exactly does it mean that this is a “stripped down,” “meticulously pruned and compressed data set”? What is and isn’t included here?
Brilliant(ish) Software: For all intents and purposes, everything is there, something like 3.5 million articles. There are certain small sections at the end of articles that didn’t seem incredibly important for offline users, like “External Links” and “References” that were sacrificed for the sake of keeping the file size small. And no images of course, but those do get downloaded for the articles you’re viewing if you want, if have a network connection.
GD: Could you explain the pricing in a little more detail? I understand that you get the entire initial dump included in the price, and you can download it again for free. In what case would you need to download it again — just if you deleted the app and reinstalled it, or for multiple devices? Are there any other reasons you would need to re-download?
BS: The pricing including two data dump downloads per device that you install it on. There are a few situations that you would want to re-download the data dump: the main one being if you downloaded the data and then at some point in the future you want all the new updated articles. Also, if you wiped your phone or deleted the app and never backed everything up as well. The reason the app is relatively expensive is that the data file is quite expensive to host after you factor in downloads for multiple devices per legitimate purchase. Also, the app is pirated a lot, and those users obviously aren’t paying for bandwidth. (I’ve actually had days where the legitimate app sales haven’t covered the cost of all the users that have downloaded the data. It’s incredible.)
GD: Are the updated dumps included in the price, or will they be $1 downloads as well? Will the app notify me when an update is available?
BS: The first updated data dump would be included in the price, correct, and subsequent downloads would be $1. I don’t actually send out notifications of new data dumps.
GD: How did you come up with the idea of downloading all of Wikipedia? I have to admit, at first it sounds a little like a joke, along the lines of “How about if I just make a hard copy of the Internet, for backup.” Were you surprised at how small a file size (relatively speaking) you could make Wikipedia?
BS: There’s actually another app out there that does this, called Encyclopedia which I used to use all the time created by one Patrick Collison, so credit definitely goes to him for even thinking it was possible! It’s a really great app, but I felt it was missing some key things, so here we are. Wikipedia releases compressed data backup files of their site every month or two that users can use. The problem is that this data is an xml text based format and includes a lot of extraneous information that has to be culled and “massaged” into a format that the phone can search and load very quickly. Making that happen took a lot of late nights, but when it all comes together it’s pretty cool to experience.
GD: Are there any copyright issues involved here? I know that Wikipedia is Creative Commons licensed; do you need any particular permissions to package it and sell it like this? Or it is more that you’re selling the app, and the download of the information itself is free?
BS: You’re correct, the copyright I work under is the same as any other online Wikipedia tool in that we’re providing value to Wikipedia users that currently doesn’t exist.
GD: Just for fun: what’s one Wikipedia article that you think everyone needs to read?
BS: As for my favourite articles, these would be ones that are very long and in-depth on a single topic. Things like World War 2 or the French Revolution. These articles are a mile long with pages and pages of legit reference and further links to even more in-depth information, it’s incredible really, and it’s all volunteers! It’s one of things that make me realize that Wikipedia didn’t have to exist. That it does exist really is amazing and is not simply a logical extension of the technological age that we live in, which is why we must appreciate, protect, and support it. I donate and so should everyone.
For your chance to win a free download of All Of Wikipedia – Offline, just leave a comment below about something interesting you’ve learned from Wikipedia. We’ll pick three winners at random on Wednesday, July 13, at 10pm PST.