Digital History: All Contributions Welcome

The enormous growth in user-generated content made possible by such developments as the wiki, presents exciting opportunities as well as potential perils for historians, as Nick Poyntz explains.

User-generated content is a term that was first popularised in 2005, when websites began to offer users a chance create material for publication online. It can refer to anything created by visitors to a website, from a short review posted on Amazon to a lengthy Wikipedia article. Such websites are creating new possibilities for historians to access and share information.

Genealogists were among the pioneers of user-generated content. Roots Web, one of the first family history websites, began in the 1980s as an Internet mailing list and mined onto the web in 1996 as a collaborative collection of genealogical databases. More recently, websites such as Geni and MyHeritage have used social networking models to allow users to share or connect their family trees. The biggest of these extended trees, or 'forests', has over 35 million members.

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