[ This article was written for a general audience, and originally appeared in the OpEd pages of The Hindu, dated 03 April 2015 ]
In 1990, Encyclopaedia Britannica recorded its largest annual sales. A mere 2 decades later, the brand had decided to stop printing copies of its eponymous product. Its audience had not only moved online, but moved to other sources altogether. It was an astonishingly rapid decline for a brand that held pride of place in intellectual traditions of the English-speaking world for nearly 250 years. Behind this change in consumer preference were the usual suspects: affordable PCs and broadband Internet access in homes. There was also an additional, if much less celebrated, technology that did Britannica in — the humble Wiki, which is the technology that powers Wikipedia, the open encyclopedia that anyone with an Internet connection can edit and improve.