This article from the Wall Street Journal discusses the rapid increase in traffic that Wikipedia is experiencing. I’m not at all surprised by this. The collective mind and the collective drive to contribute, argue, build, create (and destroy) is more powerful than the paycheque being paid to the editors of About.com as well as any other portal site that uses paid labour to build their indexes (other than perhaps Google since their paid labour is working on metadata and mutating algorithm development rather than fixed categorization schemas.)
I’m convinced that Wikipedia, if it does not collapse under its own weight or implode from lack of viable long-term financing, will become the real world precursor to Douglas Adam‘s fabled Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which as any Adams fan knows was intended as a guidebook for wayward travellers through the universe.
Give Wikipedia another couple of years, put it into a small portable, carry-able guidebook form and you have the real thing. I can’t wait.