Getting around the Wikipedia blackout: A survival guide
Vanessa Greco, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:20PM EST
The world's largest online encyclopedia has gone dark, but that doesn't mean your most urgent questions have to go unanswered.
Wikipedia imposed a 24-hour blackout on its English-language website Wednesday to protest anti-piracy legislation under consideration in the United States.
The site's virtual wall, however, isn't impenetrable and there are ways for curious web surfers to access the online encyclopedia's free content.
Wikipedia itself has offered up ways for Internet users to continue searching for answers to burning questions such as "Are chinchillas rodents?" and "What does ‘rickrolling' mean?"
The lights may have dimmed at Wikipedia's main English website but quick knowledge is still plentiful at its mobile website.
Smartphone users can whip out their respective devices and stay sharp with the website's mobile application.
Desk dwellers limited to a desktop or laptop can still visit the mobile site at the following link: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/
Unsurprisingly, the layout is a little different but the basic nuts-and-bolts of Wikipedia – search bar, featured article, language – are still there.
Of course, that example is just for Firefox. Other browsers such as Internet Explorer and Google Chrome will likely have different paths. Thankfully, there's always the "Help" button.
'Escape' as if your life depended on it
If you're preferential to the ordinary Wikipedia layout, New York Times blogger Sarah Maslin Nir has pointed out that accessing the English site is as easy as hitting your computer's "Escape" button.
Here's how: When you click on a link Wikipedia's English site or type http://en.wikipedia.org/ into your web browser, press your computer's escape key as the page is loading. This should stop Wikipedia's big black wall from appearing.
It should be noted that this action can be a little tricky. For most, there's a small window of opportunity to hit "Escape" before the page loads so speed is crucial.
Here at CTVNews.ca, it took three tries before we managed to dodge the wall.
Flaunt your multilingual skills
According to Wikipedia, its content is available in more than 270 languages.
Only Wikipedia's English site has adopted the blackout, so there are many options for web users who speak Spanish, French, Afrikaans, Polish, Italian, Russian … the list goes on. (There are even articles available in Esperanto.)
This option is as easy as heading on over to Wikipedia.org and picking a language.
Nix the banner
To its credit, Wikipedia has provided users with several opportunities to hedge the blackout. None may be handier than the option to just skip the wall entirely.
As stated on the site, Internet users can copy the code "?banner=none" and paste it to the end of each page URL, or the text in your browser's address bar.
Hit enter and within seconds the gloomy black wall should disappear.
With millions of articles, it's easy to see why Wikipedia is a perennial frontrunner when it comes to searching for answers on the Internet.
That said, it isn't the only game in town and there are several other websites users can visit while they wait for the blackout to end at midnight (ET).
- Quora, an information sharing site, also takes a collaborative approach but asks users to log in before they search.
- Remember those hulking, hardcover Encyclopedia Britannica print sets on your grandfather's bookshelf? Well, the website still exists.
As well, most post-secondary students have access to their university or college's online library, which should connect them to a number of databases divided by topic.
Patience (we hear it's a virtue)
By now, it's probably apparent that Wikipedia's blackout is really more of a black curtain drop; the veil can be pushed back.
That said, the methods listed above aren't state secrets and the website has made it clear that it doesn't mind users executing them.
"Our purpose here isn't to make it completely impossible for people to read Wikipedia," reads a statement on the site. "We just want to make sure you see our message."
Ah yes, the message. As users figure out the tactics and web wizardry required to knock down Wikipedia's virtual wall, it should be noted that the wall is there for a reason.
The website is joining several other groups in protesting proposed anti-piracy legislation that focuses on the illegal sale of music and other media.
Tech companies and others fear the legislation, which is under consideration in Congress, could affect web security and freedom of speech. Many are concerned the two bills could be applied to more innocuous social websites where users share content.
If you'd like to learn more about Wikipedia's opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) there's an explainer available online.